Sunday, October 06, 2013

Spider Woman's Daughter by Anne Hillerman

Anne Hillerman took a gamble picking up her father's mystery series. Tony Hillerman's Leaphorn and Chee
novels were beloved. But, she came up a winner, taking the series in a slightly different direction. Hillerman focuses on Officer Bernadette Manualito, a Navajo Nation police officer, married to Sergeant Jim Chee.

Captain Howard Largo invited a number of younger police officers to the Monday morning meetings at the Navajo Inn where the cops brainstormed cold cases over breakfast. Bernie felt honored to be included so she drove an hour in on her day off to participate. The meeting was breaking up, but she was the only officer out in the parking lot when someone got out of a car, and shot a retired officer point blank. While Bernie tried to keep him alive, she also tried to remember all the details of the shooter and the vehicle. As the victim clung to life, it would be Bernie's descriptions that would drive the FBI investigation. "There had never been a shooting of one of the Navajo Nation's best-known policemen in broad daylight outside a busy restaurant, with a table full of other cops just a heartbeat away."

Flown to a Santa Fe hospital, the victim was a heartbeat from death. As a witness, Bernie was suspended from the investigation, but Captain Largo knew she would do her best to help her husband, Chee, who was put in charge of finding the killer. Strand by strand, Bernie and Chee try to follow the clues, but it's Bernie, who knows the Navajo stories, and honors the legends involving weaving and pottery, "Spider Woman's daughter", who would finally weave together the threads of the crime.

It's probably heresy to say I actually enjoyed Spider Woman's Daughter more than some of Tony Hillerman's books. Anne Hillerman manages to write a riveting police procedural while incorporating the Navajo culture and traditions. At times, I found her father's works to be a little too complicated, and I lost the thread. Anne celebrates the beauty of the land and the people through Bernie and Chee's eyes. However, she never loses the thread of the story in the process.

Bernie was a part of Tony Hillerman's stories. Now, in Anne Hillerman's Spider Woman's Daughter, she takes center stage as a capable investigator in her own right. I hope Tony Hillerman's fans aren't disappointed. Hopefully, they will be thrilled to see his characters live again through the writing of his daughter.

Anne Hillerman's website is www.annehillerman.com

Spider Woman's Daughter by Anne Hillerman. HarperCollins. 2013. ISBN 9780062270481 (hardcover), 320p.

*****
FTC Full Disclosure - The publisher sent me a copy of the book, hoping I would review it.

15 comments:

Nancy said...

Lesa, I did wonder how the daughter's writing would compare. I do appreciate your honest reviews. I hadn't read a Hillerman novel for years, but now I want to get back into the Navajo world. I imagine Tony would be proud.

Karen C said...

Like Nancy, I haven't read a Tony Hillerman book in many years. Your great review, Lesa, and makes me want to pick up the book.

Lesa said...

Thank you, Nancy. Like you, I hadn't read one in years. And, I'd heard Anne Hillerman speak about her father's work, and I'm afraid I wasn't impressed with her as a speaker. But, loved the book. I think you're right. Her father would be proud.

Lesa said...

I hope you get a chance to read this one, Karen. I'd love to know what you think.

Joe Barone said...

I thought the book took exactly the kind of turn the series needed to take. I would probably have been dissatisfied had she tried to replicate what her father had done. I thought that to take a lesser (but still important) character and put her at the center of the book was the right direction for her to go. I enjoyed the book and will read more.

Lesa said...

You're so right, Joe. Unlike so many others who try to continue a series after the author is dead, she found the right direction for it. I think your comments are perfect.

Reine said...

Lesa, I was happy to read this review. I was not impressed with the idea of her picking up the series and had not planned to read Spider Woman's Daughter. I've changed my mind now. I think the direction she took with Bernie is a good one, and I look forward to reading it.

I liked the intricate storylines that her father wrote, but I also value simplicity in a good story. I think I will like this. Thank you.

Lesa said...

Reine,

You'll have to come back and tell me what you think after reading it.

Sue Farrell said...

I am so glad you liked this book. I have missed the Hillerman series and this continuation should be interesting.

Lesa said...

I did like the book, Sue. And, I really respect Joe Barone's comment about it. Anne Hillerman did make it her own. I'll be interested to hear what you think.

Anne Hillerman said...

Lesa,
So glad you liked Spider Woman's Daughter. Dad left big shoes to fill. I have always loved his characters and feel honored to be able to continue their stories.
Thanks for your kind words.
Anne Hillerman

Lesa said...

What a beautiful comment, Anne. Not knowing him, I can only hope he would have been very proud of your book. It was terrific.

Anonymous said...

I really did not like this book. I am a New Mexican born and bred; love the Leaphorn/Chee mysteries but Anne just does not have her father's 'voice'. I moved to Washington, D.C. when I graduated from UNM and would read them when I felt homesick. This read was not even close to what I was used and did not help with my homesickness! I am sad it was so bad.

Lesa said...

Ah, I'm sorry you didn't find her father's voice in Anne's story. Every book isn't for everyone. Those of us who have read so many poor attempts at duplicating an author's voice may have been happier with it because she found her own voice, but used his characters.

tl said...

Yes! Exactly. I'd loved Tony Hillerman for years, but had worn out over the last few books and stopped reading him. It was really nice to see these same characters take on new life with the emphasis on Bernadette. I most appreciated that Anne didn't really try to copy her father's voice. She captured the spirit of his books without knocking herself out uselessly trying to be his clone.