Tony Hillerman was a wonderful writer and I’ve long been a fan of his mysteries set in the Navajo culture of the Southwest. I used to look forward every year to the publication of a new mystery, usually buying his new book on the first day it came out in paperback (those were lean years at our house). I would read the book in practically one sitting, and then wait another year or two for the next one to be published. What a pleasure to realize there was a new Tony Hillerman on the way!
So, when he passed away in 2008, I felt the loss quite personally. I had loved his writing, and I had loved his characters — Joe Leaphorn and Jim Chee, and later on, Bernie (Bernadette) Manuelito. It was sad to think that those stories would not continue.
So imagine my delight when I discovered that there was a new ‘Tony Hillerman book’ soon to be released! His daughter, Anne, has written a new Leaphorn/Chee mystery, Spider Woman’s Daughter, and brought to life again those beloved characters. Of course I pre-ordered the book, and when it arrived on my Kindle, I read it in practically one sitting.
It is no easy feat to continue the work of a master writer, but Anne Hillerman did a careful job of honoring her father’s characters and settings, and she obviously shares his passion for the Navajo culture. I think it must have been difficult to balance her father’s voice and her own, but I felt that she found her way with honesty and love. She focused more in this story on the character of Bernie Manuelito, Jim Chee’s wife, and that worked well. There were times while reading the book when I was very aware that Tony Hillerman was not the writer, but there were also many times when I was simply caught up in the story in that very familiar way.
I hope that Anne will continue with this series, not just as a devotion to her father, but as someone who shares his passion both for writing and for the landscape and culture of the Southwest.