Listening Woman: 05/21/13
Listening Woman by Tony Hillerman and performed by George Guidall is the third of the Navajo Mysteries series. Jim Chee still hasn't made an appearance, so it's all left to Joe Leaphorn to do the investigating.
As many of the other reviews note, there's a certain formula to Hillerman's mysteries. First, there's a horrific crime that could have extra significance in the context of Navajo culture — something that would be missed by anyone unfamiliar with the Diné. Then there's the investigation in which Joe (and later Jim) try to find the balancing point between the Navajo spiritual solution and a more mundane one.
In the case of Listening Woman, the book opens with a gruesome murder of an elderly man and a teenage girl. The Diné elder, a blind woman known as Listening Woman, hears the crime and describes the crime in terms of witches and other evil spirits.
Joe's investigation brings together events at a trading post that are a hundred years old, a pair of brothers — one now a priest — and the other a traditional Navajo. There is also a lot of talk of history at a local trading post — and I recommend you read Kurt W.G. Matthies's review as he goes into the historical significance of these passages in fascinating detail.
For me, though, the mystery is always of secondary concern for me in Hillerman's books. I get so caught up in Leaphorn (and Chee's) observations and the nuances of Diné culture and language that I often lose track of the plot. That is especially true when I'm listening to the audio books. For instance, in the case of the trading post, I mostly remember Leaphorn's thoughts on a man's hat and missing hatband. The significance of the missing hat and the man's physical features that mark him as a Diné from a different region, has stuck with me more so than how those observations were clues in solving the crime.