Anne Hillerman has a gift for descriptive writing about the Southwest. She may have inherited her father's characters, Leaphorn and Chee, but she took that inheritance and made it her own. She puts her own spin on the descriptions, the characters, and the crimes. Then, she turns Rock with Wings into "A Leaphorn, Chee & Manuelito Novel."
Sergeant Jim Chee and his wife, Officer Bernie Manuelito, finally have the chance to take a vacation together, and Chee is taking her to see Monument Valley while helping a cousin get his tourism business off the ground. But, it doesn't work out quite as they intended. Bernie's sister disappears, leaving her Mama alone, so she heads home while Chee agrees to help the local police who are shorthanded.
When a woman disappears, part of a film crew filming in Monument Valley, Chee is asked to look for her. She's found, enjoying the scenery as much as he does, but the two stumble upon a newly dug grave. And, that grave, illegal on Navajo land, just digs Chee in further with the local police and the film team. It isn't long before he's not only investigating the grave, but looking for a missing girl. And, once he finds a body in a hotel room, it becomes an FBI matter.
Back in Shiprock, Bernie is involved with the FBI, too. Just before vacation, she stopped a driver while working a drug intercept operation. Although she knew something was wrong with him, the FBI wouldn't clue her in. So she kept digging. And, that man seemed to be all over the area, involved with a plan for solar development, and even an unexplained car fire. Eventually, both Chee and Bernie turn to their former boss, Leaphorn, for assistance.
Hillerman skillfully combines the movie business, the solar power industry, and Navajo tradition and life into an intriguing story. The ending may be a slight letdown, but there's still a hint of mystery left. Rock with Wings is a solid police procedural as both officers follow their cases, step by step, no matter where they go. The author's strength lies in her ability to beautifully describe the Navajo land, and allow the reader to see it through the eyes of two people who love it, Chee and Bernie. Don't expect Tony Hillerman's writing when you read this novel. Anne Hillerman has made the characters and the landscape her own in Rock with Wings.
Anne Hillerman's website is www.annehillerman.com
Rock with Wings by Anne Hillerman. HarperCollins. 2015. ISBN 9780062270511 (hardcover), 322p.
FTC Full Disclosure - The publisher sent me a copy of the book, hoping I would review it.