Day 647: Spider Woman’s Daughter

Cover for Spider Woman's DaughterIn summary, ho hum. I think I’ve read all of Tony Hillerman’s Joe Leaphorn and Jim Chee mysteries. I especially like Jim Chee, because he follows the Navajo Way, and I find the information about these customs and beliefs fascinating. I am not so fond, though, of writers picking up other writers’ series after their deaths. However, in the interests of being fair, I decided to try Spider Woman’s Daughter, a Leaphorn and Chee novel by Anne Hillerman, Tony’s daughter.

This novel is written from the point of view of Bernie Manuelito, now Jim Chee’s wife and a Navajo Nation police officer. She is attending a breakfast with retired Lieutenant Leaphorn and some other police officers when she witnesses Leaphorn being shot. In the parking lot of the restaurant in broad daylight, a short hooded figure emerges from the car next to his and shoots him.

Bernie does what she can to help him but feels as if she could have done more if she moved faster. Leaphorn is shot in the head and is moved from Albuquerque to Santa Fe to get care. Bernie is only allowed to follow through to contact relatives and then is off the case because she is a witness. The police are also having trouble finding Louisa, Leaphorn’s partner.

Because of Bernie’s thorough description of the getaway car, the police are able to identify it quickly. But it turns out that many people could have been driving it, as the owner’s son regularly loans it out.

Jim and Bernie become convinced that the attack relates to an old case, but a report is missing for a new case Leaphorn is on, evaluating the documents for a collection of native American artifacts that is being donated to a research facility in Santa Fe.

I was disappointed in this novel. First, except for Bernie, it does almost nothing to develop its characters. Frankly, Jim Chee did not seem like Jim, and Leaphorn was unconscious almost the whole time. The minor characters have little personality.

More importantly, by two thirds of the way through, I knew who the murderer was and why, while it took being abducted for either Chee or Bernie to figure it out. This is too early in the book to be thinking the detectives are idiots. With the old series, I seldom knew the murderer before Hillerman wanted me to, and if I did, I was interested enough in the plot or other details to want to continue.

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