Author: Anne Hillman
Publisher: Harper Collins 2013
Format: Audiobook, Read perfectly by Christina Delaine
My husband and I “discovered” Tony Hillerman’s books back in the 1980s when we were driving back and forth between our home in the Kansas City area and Santa Fe, New Mexico where our two oldest children were going to college.
The landscape of the American Southwest is so dramatic that our imaginations could not help but be fueled by the variety of stories that must be hidden there. Tony Hillerman created his Navajo police characters based on a compilation of people around the area. One of my favorite characters, beside Joe Leaphorn, is that of Bernadette Manuelito, also a Navajo police officer.
Tony Hillerman died in 2008. All of his fans mourned his passing, as did his family and friends. We miss the man, the writer and the people he created in his books. I was so happy to hear that Mr. Hillerman’s daughter, Anne Hillerman, has taken on the continuation of the Joe Leaphorn and Jim Chee stories. I was doubly happy when I learned the first book, Spider Woman’s Daughter would feature Bernadette/Bernie and her husband Jim.
As the story opens, we watch and are horrified when retired police lieutenant Joe Leaphorn is shot in the head just a short distance from Bernie. As a trained police officer, she noted as many clues as she could before the assailant drove off. Thanks to Bernie they soon track down the vehicle, but that’s just the beginning of the hunt. As it happened, lots of people have driven that car.
Meanwhile, Joe Leaphorn is taken to Santa Fe where specialists work to save him. As he lies in a coma, Jim Chee, with assistance from the FBI, follow all leads in the case. Bernie is forbidden to work the case because she was an eye-witness and may be in danger. Fortunately, this doesn’t stop Bernie. In her quiet and determined manner Bernie thinks logically and deeply, just like Joe Leaphorn, and gradually figures things out.
A big part of this book is the natural environment of northwest New Mexico and the people who live there. In this story we travel to Shiprock and Chaco Canyon and through the other small towns in the area. There are conversations with a variety of residents that make this book and all of Tony Hillerman’s books so rich.
I enjoy spending time thinking about the Navajo way of looking at life. Some of their values are different and admirable. For instance, the Navajo strongly believe that it’s evil to want material possessions and to crave them. I wonder what they think about all the Indian casinos around the country. Spending time with the Navajo also means looking at their unique sense of humor. In the middle of investigating this shooting, they are still able to find things to laugh at and poke fun at. I love it.
As one who has read all of Tony Hillerman’s books featuring Leaphorn and Chee, I must say that Anne Hillerman did a fantastic job of keeping the characters alive. I think her dad would be very proud. She did an excellent job of understanding Bernie. She took the basic character and expanded her. She gave Bernie more depth and made her much more real.
Listening to the audio version of the book certainly enhanced the experience. Christina Delaine’s voice was so versatile with the different characters and the various accents. She certainly made me feel the emotions that Bernie and Jim were experiencing. I recommend reading the book via audio. If you’re unable to get an audiobook, then read it with your eyes. You’ll be glad you did.
At the end of Spider Woman’s Daughter the mystery was solved nicely. There were a couple of issues that weren’t resolved such as the situation with Bernie’s mom and sister. This gave me hope. There must be a second novel coming. I checked and the second novel has already arrived. I put my name on the request list for Rock With Wings. I’m a happy fan.