Spider Woman's Daughter, by Anne Hillerman.
How many of you have read Tony Hillerman's mystery series, set in the beautiful arid desert region of the Four Corners? His first book, in which he introduced his main protagonist, Joe Leaphorn, was written in the early '70's. It was called The Blessing Way. Over the years, Hillerman wrote 18 books featuring Joe Leaphorn and/or Jim Chee, both Navajo Nation Policemen. The setting of northern New Mexico, northern Arizona, southern Colorado and Utah, was a big part of this author's books, as well as details about the culture and lore of the Navajo Nation. I loved Tony Hillerman's books and was sad when he passed away in 2008.
Anne Hillerman, Tony's daughter, tells of the questions she received from his publisher after her father's death. Were there more manuscripts, yet unpublished, featuring Leaphorn and Chee? She said she told them that there were not and the publisher was disappointed. Anne Hillerman was already a published author and journalist. Her husband is a photographer and they had written more than one book about New Mexico, their home. She decided, after talking with her mother, to see if she could continue writing about her father's characters, but with a little different focus. With her mother's blessing and her own detailed knowledge of the previous books, she wrote Spider Woman's Daughter.
This book begins with a bunch of cops eating breakfast together. The group includes Joe Leaphorn, retired police lieutenant, now a private investigator. It also includes Officer Bernadette Manualito, wife of Sergeant Jim Chee. After the meal, Manualito receives a phone call and she leaves the table to talk to the caller. Leaphorn had also indicated that he was leaving and walked to his truck outside. As Bernie watches in horror, Leaphorn is shot in the parking lot by a person in a black hoodie, who then speeds away. Bernie rushes outside, trying to remember exact details of the shooter and vehicle, and realizing that Joe Leaphorn is critically injured. It's quite the beginning.
The rest of the book relates the investigation, which the FBI becomes a part of. Jim Chee is placed in charge of the Navajo Nation Police portion of the crime solving and he is also to act as liaison with the FBI. Bernie herself, being a witness to the crime, is placed on leave and told to go home and relax. Not so much. She finds ways to help or maybe interfere, as her boss would term it, because she feels that if she'd only moved faster or looked up sooner or something, she might have altered the outcome in some way.
The group was mostly positive about Spider Woman's Daughter. Some of us had read at least a few of the previous books in the series and so, we knew Leaphorn and Chee and also Bernie. We were used to the setting and culture being a big, big part of the story. Some members had not read any of Tony Hillerman's books. It was agreed that the mystery itself was not particularly complex. However, we allowed that this was a 'first' book and hope that in future books, that might change. Most everyone was impressed with the vivid descriptions of the location and the glimpses of Navajo culture included. Some were a little weary of the long driving distances that the characters endured and that didn't seem to affect the story, other than to be mentioned. And it is true - the driving time for these officers is huge and it's talked about over and over.
One member mentioned that she was concerned when Leaphorn's cat, which Bernie was taking home to care for, was lost for a period of time. It seemed that Bernie was a little careless about the cat. I mentioned that I thought the cat was pretty 'crafty' and seemed very intelligent. I felt the cat 'planned' to get lost. By the way, the cat was OK. It turned up later.
Almost everyone said that they would try the next book in the series, Rock With Wings, which was recently published. Though we didn't feel that the daughter was quite up to the standard of the father, we're hopeful.
Next month, our group will be reading from the theme of 'books set in the South Pacific or Asia'. We're looking forward to hearing about what everyone chooses.
Sounds like she's made a good effort to find a way to follow on from her father without just sticking to his characters. I haven't read these, but have heard so many people praise them, I really must try at least one. Do the original books stand alone or are they better read in order?ReplyDelete
You know, I think you could read the originals out of order. I think that I did that. Read them back in the days where I just read whatever was on the library shelf. The whole 'read in order' thing seemed to happen after I had more info about things when the internet happened. Know what I mean? LOLDelete
Haha! Yes I do know! I used to just pick whatever one the library had available too - we're all so much pickier now! I'll have a look and see which blurbs appeal then - thanks! :)Delete
That has to be the most unique blog post title, I have seen, in ages!!!! ,-)ReplyDelete
Well, thanks! I try to loosely link the mystery group posts. Just a little thought I had. So I start with 'in which the mystery group...' and then go on from there.Delete
I followed Joe Leaphorn and Jim Chee for years (and years) and will look for this effort by his daughter. I loved the setting and the cultural emphasis in Tony Hillerman's books and hope Anne's efforts are successful!ReplyDelete
I do too. Haven't read #2 book yet, but I will. I used to love reading Tony's books and the descriptions.Delete
It will be interesting to see where she takes the series. I imagine it can be hard, picking up the mantel of a popular series with a lot of faithful readers. She's bound to disappoint hardcore fants, but hopefully she will build her own fan base and win a few of her father's fans over as well.ReplyDelete
Yes, I agree. I think it might be easier in some ways for her because she was so familiar with his books and characters. She said in an interview that Joe Leaphorn was like an honorary uncle to she and her siblings - even though he was fictional. LOLDelete
I'm so glad your group enjoyed the book. Now I'll go ahead and read Spider Woman's Daughter too. I love the whole Joe Leaphorn series, but its been many years since I read them all. I pulled out the first, The Blessing Way, just for old times sake. I think I'll read it first and then pick up the daughter's book. Thanks for sharing your experience with the books.ReplyDelete
I understand about wanting to reread The Blessing Way, Margot. I thought about that too. I'll be curious to see what you think. I was fine with her continuation, but I'm not sure everyone will be.Delete
It sounds like it was like the author did a fairly good job of following on from her father - I've not read either but will look out for them.ReplyDelete
They have a great setting. And that comes through so clearly, along with the Navajo culture.Delete
I am not familiar with either author. I would think it would be difficult for Anne to follow in her father's successful footsteps. Thanks for sharing your thoughts.ReplyDelete
Yes, she definitely took a gamble on continuing the characters. And did a pretty good job. At least I think so. :-)Delete
I just read this one earlier this year and though I never read the Tony Hillerman series before, I thought it might be a good jumping-off place to start. I needed to pay attention to learn about the back story, but it's all good. I now have the second one she wrote, Rock With Wings, from the library to read next week.ReplyDelete
I saw that you have the second book. Hope it works as well. I'll get to it at some point, I'm sure.Delete
I haven't read any from this series, but I'm definitely intrigued. I love how Anne Hillerman was able to take the characters her father created in her own direction.ReplyDelete
She said she knew the characters so well that they were like family members.Delete
I guess it is summer vacation time right? Our book group meeting was this past Tuesday and we were missing half of our members. I don't think I've read any Tony HIllerman but how cool that his daughter can continue his writing legacy! So for your next book group meeting is everyone reading a different book?ReplyDelete
Yes, we have a theme reads at least once or twice a year. Either a time period or location. Plus we sometimes have an author read - whichever book by a certain author that members want to pick up. It helps with the 'lack of copies' problem we have in being a library program.Delete