Review

The Wailing Wind

by Tony Hillerman



The Southwest is a collage of ancient origin reflected in
breathtaking vistas --- the Grand Canyon, the Painted Desert,
pueblo homes of bygone eras nestled into treacherous cliffs high
above a scorching desert. And, boy, do I remember those deserts.
Endless miles broken only by the occasional tumble weed or a
solitary hovel clinging forlornly to the roadside. Nevertheless,
this vast region has a stark beauty that many have found alluring,
and no one more so than Tony Hillerman. Through his proliferation
of novels and nonfiction works he has immortalized this primordial
land, eschewing the more common tourist attractions for the mesas
and arroyos embraced by the ancestors of our Native
Americans.

THE WAILING WIND brings Lieutenant Joe Leaphorn and Sergeant Jim
Chee together once again. Each is pursuing his own investigation,
one involving the recent murder of a stranger, the other an older
case that ended with the disappearance of a wealthy man's wife.
Both cases seem to turn on one common thread --- the legendary
Golden Calf Mine. Wiley Denton had been convicted of killing a con
man trying to sell him a map to the lost mine, but in the aftermath
his lovely young wife had vanished without a trace. Many felt that
she was involved in the swindle, but Leaphorn was uneasy with the
accepted theory. He believed the Denton's love for each other was
real, and the unanswered questions surrounding Linda Denton's
disappearance niggle him like a rock in his shoe. Chee and Officer
Bernadette Manuelito's homicide case appears at first blush to be
unrelated. But when the evidence continues to connect back to the
mythical Golden Calf Mine, Leaphorn's interest in the Denton case
is rekindled.

Hillerman's Native American mysteries have been unwaveringly
popular, and his recurring duo of Joe Leaphorn and Jim Chee are
largely responsible. Working opposite ends of these puzzling cases,
their paths cross often, even though Leaphorn is now officially
retired from the Navajo Tribal Police. Chee even imposes on their
long standing but tenuous friendship to ask Leaphorn's help in
saving Bernie's career. Her mishandling of the crime scene may have
been understandable given her inexperience, but her captain, not to
mention the FBI, aren't cutting her any slack. Bernie strikes out
on her own, returning to the murder scene to unravel what happened
out there. But someone is determined to put a stop to her snooping,
and she becomes the target of an unknown sniper. If the Golden Calf
Mine doesn't exist, then what is in those hills that would be worth
killing to protect? The answer actually lies in a completely
different direction, and an old Halloween tale that had been
largely forgotten will eventually become the focus for both
investigations.

If you've followed the saga of Chee and Leaphorn over the years,
you already know that Hillerman's novels are far more than just
good old-fashioned mysteries. Insight into native folklore and
descriptive passages on ceremonial customs enrich the storylines
with authentic atmosphere. Despite the Navajo backdrop, universal
themes are present as well: Jim Chee struggling to balance his
ancestral traditions with a modern world, Leaphorn facing the
unsettling realities of retirement. And THE WAILING WIND also
continues to explore the evolving relationship between Leaphorn and
Professor Louisa Bourbonette, which appeared a few books back,
contrasted by Chee's comic bumbling of yet another romantic
interest. Chee and Leaphorn may have aged, even mellowed a little,
other characters may have moved on, but Hillerman's stories remain
as consistent and engaging as ever.

Reviewed by Ann Bruns (BkPageWC@aol.com) on January 24, 2011

The Wailing Wind
by Tony Hillerman

  • Publication Date: May 1, 2002
  • Genres: Fiction, Mystery
  • Hardcover: 232 pages
  • Publisher: HarperCollins
  • ISBN-10: 0060194448
  • ISBN-13: 9780060194444