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The Wailing Wind: 04/06/12

cover art

The Wailing Wind by Tony Hillerman is the fifteenth mystery featuring Joe Leaphorn. Joe is now retired but it doesn't stop him from consulting in his own way when trouble arises.

A call comes in about an abandoned truck inside the bounds of the Navajo Nation. Officer Bernadette Manuelito is the one sent to the scene. She finds a man dead inside the car and has to confront her traditional beliefs that go counter to her duties as a police officer.

The present day murder brings up questions about an older murder, one that happened long enough ago for the convicted to have done his time and be out. He, though, hires Joe Leaphorn to find is wife who went missing before the murder. Everyone assumes he had killed her too but he insists she left him.

It's a pretty standard who-done-it mystery on plot alone. What draws me in is the setting, the Navajo Nation, and the way Hillerman wraps together the different, and oft-times competing, cultural values of the area, to build characters who are interesting and conflicted.

Normally the mysteries are set in the New Mexico piece of Navajo Nation (Dinéhtah), an entity that spreads into Arizona, and slightly into Utah and Colorado. Something covering that much land is bound to have some regional differences but this is the first time I can recall one of Hillerman's books introducing differences in language and traditions between the Western (Arizona) and Eastern (New Mexico) Dinéh.

Five stars.

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