Whenever I am reading one of the Hillerman books, Tony’s or Anne’s, “setting” is very important. The novels are set all throughout the Navajo territory of New Mexico, Arizona, Utah and Colorado – the Four Corners area. These settings affects the storyline, the dialogue, the explanation of the mysteries, and more. The Navajo culture and lore along with the land, rocks, vegetation, climate, rivers and mountains are intertwined with the characters to make the stories so unique and satisfying.
The newest book added to the Hillerman series has another of the unique settings in the Navajo Nation area. Look at the picture* above. What you see is what the Navajo call Tse Bi’a’i. Translated into English, it is Rock With Wings. English-speaking settlers in the area called it Shiprock. They built a town nearby and called it Shipwreck, which is still thriving today.
Rock With Wings
Author: Anne Hillerman
Publisher: Harper 2015
In Rock With Wings, our two main characters, Jim Chee and Bernnie Manuelito work for the Navajo Nation Police located in Shiprock. The married couple are assigned to two different cases and have to separate. Jim is sent to Monument Park and finds himself in the middle of a crew making a horror movie. There is a fresh grave on Navajo land, a missing woman, a dead movie producer, some beautiful earrings, and more.
Bernie gets to stay in Shipwreck. At first she works on a couple of average problems, but things get more interesting when she stops a man for a routine traffic stop. Bernie is instantly suspicious when he starts acting nervous. All she can find, however, are several boxes of dirt in the trunk. When the man offers Bermie a $500 bribe to let him go, she’s convinced there’s something shady going on. Bernie wants to solve this mystery, but her boss tells her to let it go. It seems the Feds are involved. When the man’s car is found burning out in the desert, Bernie can’t help herself, she has to keep investigating.
Along the way, Bernie seeks the help of her and Jim’s mentor, Joe Leaphorn. Joe is home from the hospital after a gunshot wound to the head which occurred in the previous novel. Joe is recovering slowly, but is frustrated because he is still unable to speak. He can only tap his fingers to answer yes and no. When Bernie is able to get Joe a laptop, he is off and running. He is able to offer Bernie some insight and then a little research help. Jim and Bernie’s mysteries come together at the end with a little help from Joe. It’s very satisfying.
Tony Hillman’s Landscape: On the Road With Chee and Leaphorn
Author: Anne Hillerman
Photographer: Don Strel
Publisher: Harper 2009
What is making the reading and re-reading of the Hillerman books so enjoyable is this book I received for Christmas. (See the first paragraph here.) If you, like me and my husband, are a true Tony Hillerman fan, this book is for you.
Tony Hillerman’s Landscape is loaded with beautiful, colorful photographs taken all over the Four Corners area and specifically in the area where Tony Hillerman’s books are set. Best of all, it’s not haphazard. It’s organized according to Hillerman’s books. Each chapter is devoted to the area featured in each book or several books if it’s the same area. The original book-covers are shown and then a short summary of the book. There is then a brief commentary about the area and/or events in the book. It is brief so the photographs are center stage.
Reading Anne Hillerman’s first novel, The Spider Woman’s Daughter, inspired me to go back and read all of Tony Hillerman’s books again. So far I read The Blessing Way, so you know the first thing I did after receiving Tony Hillerman’s Landscape was to go the chapter on The Blessing Way. It was so much fun to read about and look at the pictures of the Hubbell Trading Post, Beautiful Valley, conchos, and the breathtaking beauty of the Lukachukai mountains. I also loved the quotes from the book that matched up with the pictures.
Rereading the Tony Hillerman books along with my new tour-guidebook is going to be a fun project. I’m grateful to my dauthter Candice and her husband Mark for this very thoughtful gift. I strongly recommend you add this book to your library and/or to that of a friend or family member who is also a Hillerman fan.
*The picture of Shiprock came from Wikipedia.