Top critical review
Enjoy the scenery
13 January 2010
Set in 1970's Arizona amongst the reservations of several Native American tribes especially the Zuni, Navajo and Apache. Following the disappearance of a teenage Zuni boy who was preparing for a ceremonial rite of passage, suspicion falls on his supposed friend the 'crazy' George Bowlegs. As a body is discovered the full range of law enforcement falls on the area. This includes one of Mr Hillerman's recurring heroes Lt Joe Leaphorn of the Navajo Indian Tribal Police and extends right up to the FBI.
Did Bowlegs commit the crime? Can he be tracked down by Leaphorn? Why are the FBI bringing in drugs specialists? The crime element is thus part manhunt, part police procedural and part whodunnit.
The real stars of the book are the beautiful descriptions of the Arizona landscape and the author's intimacy with Native American culture. At first this is a little overwhelming and the short opening chapter required a couple of re-reads given the flurry of Native terms. There are some nice cultural counterpoints, especially the comparison of the secrecy of Zuni ceremonial details and the sanctity of the Catholic confession; both of which hinder the successful solution of the crime.
The crime element was , in truth, relatively mundane. There are only a couple of viable suspects and it really feels like this is the backdrop to the book rather than its driving force. The interest is in what it tells you about this way of life and for that you should be educated and entertained.