In the middle of the night someone tries unsuccessfully to kill Navajo police officer Jim Chee by putting three shotgun blasts through the wall of his trailer. Meanwhile Lt Joe Leaphorn is investigating three apparently unrelated homicides in different parts of the reservation. As Leaphorn’s enquiries proceed he senses a link with the attack on Chee and so recruits his help to the investigation.
The contrasting personalities of traditional Jim Chee and more sceptical Joe Leaphorn are finely drawn – both deeply attractive characters, not perfect but complementary to each other in their professional skills and with imperfect but believable private lives as well. The detail and care of the characterisation enriches an absorbing plot and a beautifully plain style of writing.
Much of what I have written above could be said about many fine thrillers. But it is the rooting of this story in Navajo history and culture that makes it something truly out of the ordinary. This provides not just absorbing background to the plot but a context that is fundamental to understanding the motivations of the characters.
Having finished it, it is great to know there is more in this series, but sad to find out that Tony Hillerman died a few years ago – its like meeting a new friend only for them to disappear immediately.