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Rock with Wings, by Anne Hillerman.

February 5, 2015

Rock with Wings, by Anne Hillerman. Harpers, 2015.

4 stars

Tony Hillerman’s daughter continues his popular mystery series set in the American Southwest and featuring Chee and Leaphorn of the Navaho police.

I am not a big fan of mysteries, but there are a few authors I enjoy and read whenever I can find them. Tony Hillerman, who died in 2008, has long been one of my favorites. I was pleased to discover that his daughter, Anne, is continuing his legacy. She has worked as a journalist and published several books featuring the New Mexico culture. Rock with Wings is her second book continuing the legacy of Chee and Leaphorn. The fact that I had not read her first addition to the series, Spider Woman’s Daughter, was not a problem. References to events from it only left me eager to find a copy.

Reading Anne Hillerman’s mystery, I felt like I was reading one of her father’s books. Her style, setting, and plot were faithful to his legacy. Perhaps the biggest difference was  the emergence of Bernadette Manueltio, now married to Jim Chee, as a detective fully equal to her husband. Earlier in Hillerman’s series Chee had been attracted to Janet Peet, a Navaho lawyer who tried to convince Jim to join her in Washington, D.C.  After they broke up, he and Bernie fell in love. She is a woman as deeply tied to her Navaho roots as he is and as committed to her job with the Navaho Nation Police.

In the Rock with Wings, the couple goes to Monument Valley, where Chee had lived as a child, for a rare vacation. Bernie, however, is called back home to care for her mother and sister and becomes involved in mysterious events around Shiprock, known in Navaho as “Rock with Wings.” Chee remains in Monument Valley assisting the Navaho police there. Their adventures are told in alternating chapters, with Bernie’s becoming the more dangerous and complicated.

Ann Hillerman has followed her father’s example in her richly detailed and loving descriptions of the northern New Mexico/Arizonian landscape. That is place that I know and love. Reading her words about it made me want to return there. She also continues his admiration of the Navaho people and culture, particularly their sense of the need for balance and harmony. The amount of attention both the father and daughter give to the Navaho could be invasive and distorting, but I have never heard them criticized as outsiders to the culture. An outsider myself, I see only their respect and love of the people as well as the land.

I am glad that Chee and Leaphorn are back and that Manuelito has joined them. I strongly recommend Anne Hillerman’s books to all who loved her father’s books and all who love northern New Mexico.  And to all who simply enjoy mysteries.

This book was sent to me as a prepublication ebook by Harper. It will be available later this year.

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