Wednesday, August 7, 2013

Book Review

Title: Spider Woman’s Daughter
Author: Anne Hillerman
Publisher: Harper Collins
Genre: Crime Mystery
Publication Date: Oct. 1, 2013

Bernie Manuelito isn’t about to sit out the investigation into the shooting of her mentor and friend, Joe Leaphorn. When the retired lieutenant is shot point blank Bernie is the first to see him fall, and the only witness to the incident. Joe’s prognosis isn’t good. Bernie, and fellow officer on the job – and husband at home – Jim Chee, start looking into what Joe has been up to, and who might have wanted him dead. They are troubled by questions about his personal life, factors which lead other investigators to suspect someone close to Joe of the crime. Add to the mix a case he’s been working on as a private detective that delves into the history and provenance of Native American pots dating back centuries.

Missing data, incomplete reports and the mysterious activities surrounding the car used by the shooter all serve to complicate the investigation. Bernie has been ordered to stay away from direct involvement. After all, she is the only witness, and her boss doesn’t want her testimony to be tainted when the perpetrator comes to trial. And then there is Bernie’s relationship with Joe, rocky in the past, but rock solid as her respect for him has grown over time.

Spider Woman’s Daughter is a first class mystery filled with interesting detail about being a member of the Navajo police department, and part of an extended and sometimes complicated Native American family. While Bernie is coping with her concerns about the shooting, and trying to adhere to her boss’ order to take a few days leave, she is also dealing with an aging mother and an irresponsible sister whose troubles are escalating.

There is plenty in Spider Woman’s Daughter to hope author Anne Hillerman will continue in her famous father’s tradition of taking character to new depths with every outing. Bernie is a conscientious officer, a dedicated wife, daughter and sister, and a strong character whose future seems golden as a respected police officer, and as a strong protagonist in what we can only hope will become a new series. Hillerman’s research is evident, her love of New Mexico comes through in her clear description of southwest vistas, and her respect for Native American culture is an underlying melody that holds the novel together and gives it life.

This book is described as a Leaphorn and Chee Novel. In my view it stands on its own, a crime mystery in which a determined young woman becomes a police office to be reckoned with; someone who doesn’t wait to be rescued, but who takes an active role in her own survival, her own success.

About the author (From the Harper Collins website): Anne Hillerman is the author of six books and has been a journalist for 10 years. She has received awards for her work from the National Federation of Press Women and the New Mexico Press Association. She is the director of Wordharvest Writers Workshops and the Tony Hillerman Writers Conference: Focus on Mystery. She lives in Santa Fe, N.M.


This article also appears in Happenstance Magazine, published by Happenstance Publishing. For more information go to

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