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The Sinister Pig: 06/10/15

cover art

For Proust, flavors evoked memories. For me it's books. A place will evoke the book I was reading, and conversely, a book will take me back to the place where I was reading it.

The Navajo Mysteries, written first by Tony Hillerman, and now by Anne Hillerman, primarily take place within the bounds of the Navajo Nation. And although I've visited, I've never read a single one of the mysteries there. And yet, the books all evoke places to me — UCSB, Salinas, Pine Cove, and now Hayden Island.

Bear with me. Until recently, The Sinister Pig was the last the original series I hadn't read. Library and local bookshops didn't have a copy, and while I love the series, I just didn't feel the need to do a special order.

Our favorite hotel in Portland maintains two "take one, leave one" libraries. On our last summer trip there, I spotted a hard cover edition of The Sinister Pig. Bonus! I knew we'd be coming back in December on our trip to Canada, so I made it my goal to read it and return it then.

The Sinister Pig by Tony Hillerman is the 16th in the original series. Bernadette Manuelito has broken up with Jim Chee. She's now working off the Rez for the Border Patrol. She spots something unusual at a so-called exotic animal ranch that sets into motion a whole bunch of trouble. Meanwhile, a federal investigator has been murdered as he was in the middle of investigating something going on at the border.

Many of the books in this series are references to Diné stories but this time with the story only vaguely on the reservation, the title is instead a three way pun. There is the potentially corrupt cop (a sinister pig), there are the pigs that clean out pipes, and there are the pigs that get other pigs to do things, like the bellwether sheep. These three types of pigs related directly to the three mysteries of the book.

And it takes three characters to pool their resources to see the big picture. It takes Joe Leaphorn's understanding of how things were, Jim Chee's current investigational skills, and it takes Bearnette Manuelito's curiosity and out the box thinking to bring the clues together.

Now having read the other books in the series, and especially Spider Woman's Daughter, it was interesting to see Bernie and Jim figure out their feelings for each other. I knew how it was going to work out but I wasn't sure how they would get there. That was a fun bit of 20/20 hindsight.

And in case you're wondering, I did finish the book in time for the Canada trip. I dropped the book off on our way up and it was gone by the time we had returned just before New Year's. I picked up a copy of How Stella Got Her Groove Back which I plan to read and return the next time we're up that way in December.

Five stars

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