Rock with Wings by Anne Hillerman

Rock with WingsReviewed by Caryn St. Clair

When Tony Hillerman died, the mystery community not only lost a great man, but mourned to loss of one of the most consistently stellar series around. The thought of not having a yearly fix of Leaphorn and Chee was just unbearable. Then his daughter Anne Hillerman took over writing about the Navajo Tribal Police using her father’s characters of Jim Chee, Joe Leaphorn and Bernadette Manuelito. While her father’s books were told from the perspective ot Leaphorn and Chee, Anne Hillerman has chosen to give Bernie Manuelito a voice. It works perfectly.

Anne Hillerman follows last year’s debut Spider Woman’s Daughter with another solid book, Rock with Wings. Bernie and Chee are supposed to be on vacation but things don’t go quite as planned. They make it to Chee’s brother’s place, but almost immediately Bernie is called back home to care for her mother since her wayward sister hasn’t come home. While she is home she decides to follow up on a traffic stop she made before leaving on vacation. The man she stopped had been acting nervous and had tried to bribe her into only giving him a ticket and letting him go, but why? The only thing suspicious had been the two boxes of dirt in his trunk. Why was he so nervous?

Meanwhile Chee figures to help his brother out with his new photography tour business until Bernie can get back. But then he is asked to look for a woman who has gone missing from a movie set in Monument Valley. He finds the woman safe and sound, but she trips over a fresh grave on her way back to the car.

Solar energy is coming to Navajo land bring power to areas of the reservation that have lacked electricity. The program runs into a problem though when an old man refuses to sign on because the solar panels would block his view of Shiprock.

Hillerman takes the plot threads of an unusual traffic stop, a zombie movie set in Monument Valley, solar power and adds in the magical Navajo legends of skinwalkers into a tightly woven story. The changing Navajo way of life is highlighted throughout the book.

It’s the little things that make these books so special. The way people dress and fix their hair is explained in terms of Navajo beliefs. The importance of sheep to the dines in the past. The way people address each other or for that matter approach each other. The foods of the past blended with the tastes of the day. Each detail adds another level of authenticity to the books. Tony Hillerman’s tradition is in good hands.

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