The Shape Shifter: 07/08/13
The Shape Shifter is the last of the Navajo mysteries written by by Tony Hillerman. His daughter is now restarting the series — the first of the new books being Spider Woman's Daughter in which Bernie Manuelito (now Mrs. Chee) will play a greater role.
My one complaint with Hillerman's novels is the sheer number of times witches / skinwalkers / shape shifters are initially blamed for a crime. Usually it's only taken as a piece of rumor, but it's still rather tedious.
Now while the Chees are enjoying being newlyweds, Leaphorn, retired, takes on a curious case involving a rug with ties to the Long Walk. The rug (rumored to possibly be cursed) surfaces in a magazine spread years after it was presumed lost to fire.
Tied up with the rug is the shape shifter in question. Here it's not a Navajo witch, but identity theft. Leaphorn uses the traditional stories to rationalize the thought process behind the crime.
When I first read the book it felt like a winding-up of the series. To me, Leaphorn felt like Hillerman's authorial stand-in. Although Hillerman wasn't a Navajo, I think he was of the same generation as Leaphorn. I think the future books, by Hillerman's daughter, it would be fitting to say a quiet goodbye to Leaphorn and let Jim and Bernie take center stage. I also have to wonder if Bernie will be Anne Hillerman's authorial stand in.