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by Anne Hillerman
Harper, October 2013
301 pages
ISBN: 0062270486

Buy in the UK | Buy in Canada

Anne Hillerman, the late Tony Hillerman's daughter, picks up the Leaphorn and Chee series with SPIDER WOMAN'S DAUGHTER. The book reaches back to characters and plot from Tony Hillerman's A THIEF OF TIME, a book I read so long ago that the references were almost lost. Anne Hillerman has made me want to revisit the earlier book. Anne H has pulled Bernadette Manualito (Bernie) from the background of Tony H's series and placed her in the center of this book to the extent that, if it continues, the series may need to become the Leaphorn, Chee, & Manualito series. The author provides Bernie with complex psychological challenges as she juggles her roles as wife, daughter, and older sister with her toughness as a policewoman.

At the outset of the book, Bernie witnesses Leaphorn being shot as he is getting into his car. The shooter then jumps into a blue car and speeds off. With Bernie's description of the car in hand, the car is found quickly, but it turns out that it was being rented for short trips by the owner's son so provides little in the way of a clue as to the shooter. As Jim Chee and off-duty Bernie work to find the shooter, Leaphorn languishes in the hospital. Retired from the force, Leaphorn had most recently been working as an insurance investigator on a case involving Navajo pottery. Bernie & Chee's investigation turns up links between Leaphorn's current insurance report and a previous murder case, while the parallel FBI investigation focuses on Leaphorn's partner and on ties to the car owner's son. The plot moves along, pulling the various threads together, until the author yanks them tightly for a very suspenseful ending.

The pacing of the book was reminiscent of Tony Hillerman's plots; however, while the author made frequent reference to Navajo country and culture, these aspects of the book were not as fully fleshed out as they were in her father's books. It is only in comparison to her father that Anne Hillerman pales, however. She is a fine writer on her own, and SPIDER WOMAN'S DAUGHTER stands on its own merit. Anne is taking the series in a slightly different direction from Tony, with the elevation of Bernie to major character. The change to a woman's perspective is a wise move that keeps the series intact while allowing the new author her own voice. I am interested to see how the series evolves at Anne's hand.

Sharon Mensing is the Head of School of Emerald Mountain School, an independent school in the mountains of Colorado, where she lives, reads, and enjoys the outdoors.

Reviewed by Sharon Mensing, September 2013

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Contact: Yvonne Klein (ymk@reviewingtheevidence.com)

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