A lawman with a hardy appetite for life and an unshakable faith in the explicable, Southern Ute Acting Chief of Police Charlie Moon is not prepared to accept a purely supernatural explanation for the recent strange events of April 1. Nevertheless, something carried off Tommy Tonompicket and his unlikely drinking companion, research scientist William Pizinski, in the black chill of the Colorado night. And something ripped the head off a man outside a lonely cabin in the mountains...and left two large, fanglike punctures in his chest. And though Charlie's eccentric old aunt, the shaman Daisy Perika, claims the gargantuan avenging arachnid Grandmother Spider has risen up from the depths of Navajo Lake, the hulking, good-natured tribal policeman feels in his gut that this is murder, pure if not simple, and most probably by human hands.
About the Author
James D. Doss, recently retired from the technical staff of Los Alamos National Laboratory, now spends most of his time in a small cabin above Taos writing mystery fiction. He also travels to the fascinating locations where his stories take place, often camping in remote areas to absorb the impression of an Anasazi ruin, a deep canyon, an arid mesa, or a Sun Dance. His Shaman series includes The Shaman Sings, The Shaman Laughs, The Shaman's Bones, The Shaman's Game, The Night Visitor, and Grandmother Spider. The unusual plots are a mix of high technology and mysticism (Shaman Sings), bizarre animal mutilations (Shaman Laughs), theft of a sacred artifact (Shaman's Bones), an unprecedented form of murder and revenge at the Sun Dance (Shaman's Game), a most peculiar haunting followed by the discovery of an astonishing fossil (Night Visitor), and because a small girl has killed a spider without performing the prescribed ritual the appearance of a monstrous, murderous, eight-legged creature on the reservation (Grandmother Spider, of course!).
Read an Excerpt
Southern Ute Reservation
The east, an iridescent rainbow arches shimmeringly over misted mountains. In the west, the crimson sun descends through opalescent clouds. Far above-unbound by the fetters of this worlda lone hawk floats serenely. Having gathered perfume, the evening breeze whispers sweetly of blushing flowers. How glorious, these hours.
The translucent mask of day slips away. At twilight's cue, the bright masquerade ends...the darkling's dance begins. In the black heavens are fiery omens. On the flinty field, sheep of the flock are scattered in terror. And where the icy water drips...living flesh is cleaved from bone.
In this wilderness of windswept sandstone mesas and deep, cool canyons, dusk approaches with tremulous sighs and elusive whispers. As the sun blushes scarlet, a misty breath of twilight is exhaled from the mouth of Cañon del Espíritu. A triad of shadowy fingers reach out from Three Sisters Mesa, slipping stealthily along the piñon-studded ridge toward the isolated home. As if to grasp and crush the Ute elder's modest dwelling.
Were it not for the child and her black cat-and the wandering ghosts who have not found that elusive exit from Middle World-the old woman would be quite lonely. But loneliness is banished by activity. So, from long habit, she keeps busy. In her small kitchen, Daisy Perika fusses about the propane stove, preparing supper for two. She stirs a bubbling pot of green chili stew. Moreover, strong coffee is brewing. And trouble.
The girl sits cross-legged on the kitchen floor with a tatteredschoolbook in her lap. Sarah Frank's frown reflects the student's painful concentration and the child's instinctive distaste for the subject at hand. Her assignment is to study the structure of arachnids, of the order Araneae. These terrifying, alien creatures are the stuff of nightmares. Eight hooked legs, a pair of poison fangs, bulging black eyes. Some spin a sticky web to ensnare poor butterfly. Other members of this sinister clan hide in a dark pit under a cunningly crafted trapdoor, waiting to leap out and snatch pretty ladybug. How perfectly horrible.
At this very moment, across the cracked linoleum...along came a spider. And sat down. Besider.
Poor, unfortunate, arachnid (of the order Araneae). His spongy brain could have rested comfortably on the tip of a sharp pin. Life is hard enough for all God's creatures. It is particularly difficult for those who are unwilling-or unable-to think.
Sarah spied the ugly thing within a handbreadth of her leg. The benefits of a modem education were not lost on her. Without an instant's hesitation, she smacked the creature with the schoolbook.
Daisy Perikathough mildly startled by this sudden noise-did not bother to look over her shoulder. "What was that?"
Sarah recalled the Ute elder's warning about killing spiders. "Just a bug," she muttered.
"Oh." The old woman gave the thick brown broth a double stir, then touched the spoon to her tongue. Needed just another dab of salt...half a smidgen of black pepper.
The child smiled at the memory of the last time she had killed one of these awful creatures. It had been a long time agoon one of their walks in Cañon del Espíritu. Daisy had warned her that if you murder a spider, members of its familythe Spider Peoplewould come that very night, climb into your bed-and bite you! The impressionable little girl, only six at the time, had been terrified by this threat. But the shaman, as usual, had a solution. At Daisy's instruction, Sarah had used a stick to draw a circle in the dust around the dead spider. And the Ute-Papago child had said these words to the spider's spirit:
"A Navajo killed you. Send your family to bite the Navajos."
Sure enough, the falsehood worked. The vengeful eight-legged creatures had stayed away from her bed. But had the spider's family searched out an innocent Navajo girl-and bit her a thousand times? The child had never managed to dismiss this troubling image from her mind.
Now Sarah is nine years old. And very grown-up. Moreover, she is well educated. She knows that spiders do not have hateful spirits or avenging families. So she does not bother to draw an imaginary circle on the cracked linoleum around the corpse of the reprehensible creature, or to verbally direct the terrible vengeance of the Spider People on the Navajo nation ... which has troubles enough.
The old woman did not look away from her duties at the propane stove. Her mouth wrinkled into a wry smile. "So, after all my warningsyou killed another spider?"
As if Daisy Perika had an eye in the back of her head, Sarah nodded.
The old woman-as if she could see the doleful nod-shook her head wearily. She turned down the burner under the bubbling stew. "Shouldn't have done that."
Sarah-though she did not believe half the old woman's warningswas a cautious little soul. And was already considering cheap repentance. I could draw the circle around it-and say the words."
Daisy snorted. "Too late."
The child shrugged.
"Tonight," the old woman muttered darkly, "she'll be on the prowl. And have her revenge."
Sarah tended to stutter when she was anxious. "Wh-wh-who...?"
Daisy cupped her hand by her ear. "What was that? Did I hear a hoot owl?"
The child licked her lips and tried again. "Who'll be on the prowl?"
Table of Contents
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
On April first on Colorado¿s Southern Ute Reservation, Shaman Daisy Perika¿s young ward Sarah Frank steps on a spider, but fails to perform the proper ritual to ward off trouble. According to legend, Grandmother Spider will emerge from her cave under Navaho Lake looking for Utes to eat. That night, the two women observe an egg-shaped object with appendages emerges from the vicinity of the lake. Later two men disappear. One is found up a tree and the other is aimlessly wandering in the nearby woods. Neither one can explain what happened to them, but both are hospitalized. Rumors quickly run wild feeding fears, but acting Police Chief Charlie Moon thinks a more mundane explanation is behind the recent happenings. Adding to the consternation is the fact that one of the hospitalized men, a scientist with a top-secret clearance, vanishes without a trace. Charlie sees a link between the men, the strange creature, and a clandestine military operation in the area. However, to prove the connection, especially since he prefers mooning about his new love interest, seems impossible. Throughout most of GRANDMOTHER SPIDER mystery, the reader never knows whether he or she is dealing with the everyday physical world, a supernatural occurrence or two, or both. That is the beauty of this tale. The reservation combines the traditional tribal ways with a modern lifestyle. Especially intriguing is the premise that the two often fail to merge even as the tribe overall has adapted its culture to an encroaching twenty-first century environs. Readers will find Charlie, Daisy, and Sarah remain a delight as they retain their freshness in this caper that matches the best of Tony Hillerman. Harriet Klausner
Enjoyable series. I think the whole series averages out to a four star review. Less serious than Tony Hillerman, more so than Carl Hiaasen. The locale, as with most of these Southwestern mystery novels, is a real part of the draw! If Daisy Perika's old homestead were real and being offered to me, I would be packing my bags instead of pecking away at this computer. The characters are likeable, the stories interesting (especially the first ten or so) if occasionally a liitle over the top. Mr. Doss includes just a touch of the supernatural, that I usually find attractive. All in all I find the stories wonderfully escapist.. all that I look for in fiction. While not necessary, I would recommend reading the stories in order if possible.
This book was a bit boring; I couldn't wait until I was done. The characters are shallow and unappealing. It just wasn't my thing.
I started reading the third novel in this series and was hooked. The descriptions of the characters and the scenery took me straight to Colorado. Enjoyed this book in the series alot.