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Stargazer: A Leaphorn, Chee & Manuelito Novel (A Leaphorn, Chee & Manuelito Novel, 6) by Anne Hillerman

Reviewed by Carol Smith

    Summary

The setting is the Navajo Nation in New Mexico; the month is October.

The story begins when Officer Tara Williams at Socorro County Sheriff’s Department receives the call about a young boy finding a dead man inside a car near highway MN 169. She embarks on the assignment and begins her work creating a crime scene.

Stargazer is the story of Officer Bernadette Manuelito working with her police colleagues in the Navajo Nation of New Mexico. It is more than a murder mystery or investigations of crime. It is about the people who work inside law enforcement in the Navajo Nation coping with the pitfalls of budget shortage, staff shortage and other obstacles. Some episodes include mention of missing and exploited indigenous women and children as a prime problem although not the focus of the story.

Tara Williams is contacted by Officer Bernadette Manuelito regarding a missing woman in Socorro. Her name is Maya Kelsey. Tara immediately makes the connection, the woman named Maya Kelsey is married to the man found dead in his car. Maya Kelsey, reported missing, shows up at the police department confessing to the murder of her husband, Steve Jones.

Together, the two police women begin a long journey of investigating the murder of the dead man, Steve Jones, Ph.D., a scientist who works at the VLA. The VLA is an actual real-life astronomy observatory located in central New Mexico. The author makes an interesting note of this observatory at the end of her book.

Throughout the book the haunting experiences of death and suicide experienced by folks in police work surface in various characters. They carry on in-spite of it. It makes the story authentic.
The author includes colorful descriptions in her scenes that create picturesque moments for the reader. They will feel present.

Officer Bernie’s dedicated, hard work causes her to solve the mystery and find the “real killer” of Steve Jones and also solves the mystery of why his wife, Maya Kelsey, confessed to a crime she did not commit.

This story is action-packed with a lot of movement and interaction between characters. It is a very multi-faceted, enjoyable read.

Editorial Review

Hillerman’s gift of creating alliteration in various sentences adds strength and enhances reader impact. In one scene taking place in the wilderness, the alliteration in “coyote chorus” causes the reader to relax in the midst of a violent episode.

The phrase “Tsunami of sadness” cleverly inserted in a very emotive scene is an alliteration used to soften the powerful word “Tsunami” placed before the emotional word “sadness”. It is intended to galvanize the reader.

Descriptions of police characters definitively depict that of tough, dedicated folks who are on task.

Anne Hillerman performed an outstanding job creating the character of Bernadette (Bernie) Manuelito. Throughout the book she remains focused on her police work and connects with husband Sergeant Jim Chee. She has a natural inclination that causes her to see patterns, missing pieces, and the ability to notice what does “not add up”. Bernie’s actions show respect for her superiors. Her chary attitude saves her in a violent scene.

“No stone is left unturned” under her watch. The character of Officer Bernadette is believable because of Hillerman’s ability to build her personality into that of a bona fide police woman.

The author’s prose often includes words that describe the usual sights and sounds of the natural world we live in. E.g., “The morning light gave the grass a golden glow as it shimmered in the autumn breeze”. The euphony invites the reader to be present in scene.

The sound of Navajo words such Ghaaji” for October and other Navajo words are often used throughout the book. It marks the importance of American Indians clinging to their native language and customs while living in a modern-day society. There is mention of some primitive conditions such as many homes on the Navajo Nation still lacking electricity.

Hillerman is very adept at connecting all the dots in a mystery. She is an excellent mystery writer.
Quite a bit of Navajo history and present-day problems are mixed into the plots. Because of this, the story would appeal to Native American Indians and other races who are genuinely interested in the history and present day life of the American Indians.

The Tale Teller: A Leaphorn, Chee & Manuelito Novel by Anne Hillerm

Reviewed by Jud Hanson

The Tale TellerNow retired, Joe Leaphorn is asked by the manager of a local museum to recover a missing item. An anonymous donor sent items to the museum but one of the items on the enclosed inventory is missing. Although he is still recovering from a severe gunshot injury, Leaphorn is determined to not let that hinder his efforts to solve this case. At the same time, Officer Bernie Manuelito and Jim Chee are tasked with solving a rash of strange burglaries in the area. The investigation takes a strange turn when Manuelito comes across a dead man while on her daily run at a local park. Unknown to Leaphorn, Chee and Manuelito, their separate investigations will eventually collide in a tangled web of blackmail and revenge. Read the rest of this entry »

Cave of Bones (A Leaphorn, Chee & Manuelito Novel) by Anne Hillerman

Reviewed by Caryn St. Clair

Cave of BonesManuelito is asked to fill in as a speaker for a group of troubled kids on an outdoor adventure. She didn’t want to do it but reluctantly agreed . However, when she arrives at the group’s campsite, she discovers one of the campers failed to return from the solo overnight portion of the trip and a counselor went to find her. He too has failed to return. Eventually the missing girl does show up but the counselor does not and Manuelito calls out a search and rescue team. The girl who was missing is the daughter of a tribal council woman and so almost immediately politics enter into the mix with the mother trying to prevent the police from questioning the girl who may hold the key to locating the counselor. Eventually Annie, the girl, does speak with Manuelito and among other things describes the cave where she spent the night as filled with bones. This causes Manuelito in to notify authorities so the cave can be found and secured before the bones are disturbed anymore as the cave might be a sacred Navajo burial site and at the very least it contains human remains which the Navajo do not touch.

From there Manuelito gets involved with the foundation that runs the camp, stumbles onto a pot stealing ring and gets caught up in a lot of bad weather.

Meanwhile, Chee is in Santa Fe for a training course and also takes some time to check in with Darlene, Manuelito’s troubles sister who is there for a short art course. Read the rest of this entry »

Song of the Lion (A Leaphorn, Chee & Manuelito Novel) by AnneHillerman

Reviewed by Dianne Woodman

Song of the LionSong of the Lion is a continuation of the Leaphorn, Chee, and Manuelito series. This engrossing and fast-paced mystery is set in Southwestern United States, and Navajo Police Officer Bernadette “Bernie” Manuelito is the central figure in the book.

Click Here for More Information on Song of the Lion

Bernie is off duty and watching a student versus alumni basketball game at Shiprock High School gym that is packed with fans, when there is a noise that grabs her attention. She rushes to the parking lot and discovers that a car has exploded, multiple cars are damaged, and a young unidentified man is gravely injured. Bernie immediately calls the police station for back-up and works at both keeping the crime scene from being contaminated and the crowd from panicking.

Since the car was rigged with a bomb, federal agencies take the lead on the case. The owner of the demolished car is a lawyer, Aza Palmer, who is the mediator between Native Americans, environmentalists, economic developers, government agencies, and other interested parties who are gathering together to discuss a highly controversial proposed resort development on Navajo land near the Grand Canyon. As a result of the bombing and threatening e-mails, Bernie’s husband, Sergeant Jim Chee of the Navajo Tribal Police, is assigned to be Palmer’s bodyguard during the negotiation meetings in Tuba City. Read the rest of this entry »

Rock With Wings by Anne Hillerman (Review #2)

Reviewed by Dianne Woodman

Rock with WingsRock with Wings is the second book in an exciting and captivating series featuring the husband and wife team of Bernie Manuelito and Jim Chee, who are both Navajo Nation police officers in the American Southwest.

Bernie and Chee drive from their home in Shiprock to Monument Valley for a short vacation. However, it is interrupted when Bernie finds out her sister has disappeared and left their frail mother at home alone. Bernie goes home to deal with her family crisis, and Chee stays in Monument Valley to help his cousin, who is in the final steps of launching a tourism business. Read the rest of this entry »

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. Read the rest of this entry »

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. Read the rest of this entry »