Spider Woman’s Daughter by Anne Hillerman

spiderwomansdaughterReviewed by Dianne Woodman

Anne Hillerman has written an intriguing mystery set in the heart of Indian country. The crime takes place in Arizona in the city of Window Rock, the capital of the Navajo nation. Intricate details about Navajo history, traditions, beliefs, and superstitions are interwoven seamlessly into contemporary lifestyles.

In Spider Woman’s Daughter, Joe Leaphorn, a retired Navajo police officer, is shot at point blank range and is barely clinging to life. The only eyewitness to the shooting is Officer Bernadette “Bernie” Manuelito, who is forced to take a leave of absence from her job as a result. This frustrates Bernie; she has made a promise to Leaphorn that she will hunt down the person responsible for the attempted murder of a man she thinks of as family.

The Navajo Nation Police Department and the FBI pool their resources to apprehend the assailant. Bernie’s husband, Jim Chee, is put in charge of the Navajo end of the investigation. This enables Bernie to unofficially be involved in the case even while she is contending with a rebellious and inebriated sister, dealing with the guilt she feels in having failed to protect Leaphorn, and irritating her husband at times when she unintentionally tries to take over the investigation.

Bernie and Chee make numerous trips throughout regions in the American Southwest. The terrain is depicted beautifully, and a wonderful snapshot of the self-image of the Southwest is provided. While Bernie and Chee are chasing down suspects and clues in their quest for tracking down the culprit, they are drawn into a world of art theft, forgery, and murder.

In the climax scene, Bernie and Chee are unwittingly trapped in a deadly predicament.

The author does a good job of laying down false trails and keeping the police on their toes in trying to find the guilty party. Anyone interested in Navajo culture and mysteries with unexpected twists and turns will enjoy reading the book. The reader is quickly hooked into wanting to have the crime solved and questions answered as to why someone is brazen enough to shoot a highly admired and respected former member of the Navajo police force outside a restaurant in broad daylight when there are several cops inside.

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