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Cave of Bones: A Leaphorn, Chee & Manuelito Novel

Review

Cave of Bones: A Leaphorn, Chee & Manuelito Novel

Bernadette Manuelito, a young Navajo police officer and the wife of Sergeant Jim Chee, is asked to speak to a group of Navajo teenage girls gathered for a vision quest outing. A major goal of the Wings and Roots program is to encourage troubled Navajo girls to stay in school, get an education and lead productive lives.

Bernie, considered to be an inspiration, arrives at the campsite to give her presentation only to find things in disarray. One of the girls is nowhere to be found, and they’ve sent beloved instructor Domingo Cruz to find her. He, too, has vanished. Bernie springs into action and calls in search and rescue to send out a search party as a late spring blizzard looms on the horizon. Annie Rainsong turns up on her own later at the campsite in a terrified state of mind, but Domingo remains missing.

Annie, a rebellious Navajo teen, is a reluctant participant in the outing. The girls were given strict instructions to remain at each of their solitary tent sites so they could reflect by themselves on their goals --- a ritual experience encouraged by the Wings and Roots sponsors. Instead of settling down in her tent, Annie decides to take a walk, makes a wrong turn in the dwindling daylight, and loses her way on the ancient lava flow of the El Malpais Wilderness Area of Western New Mexico.

"The atmospheric prose in CAVE OF BONES brings back fond memories of travel through this mysterious and legendary world that my family calls home."

As a cold rain begins to fall, Annie stumbles toward what appears to be a cave to seek shelter. Caves are strictly off limits, not only because of animals that might dwell within, but because they are considered holy sites as they were frequently used for burials by ancient Indian tribes. She finally falls into a restless sleep on the rocky floor and awakens at early dawn to look around. She sees ancient petroglyphs on the walls, a sign that the cave has been used for perhaps hundreds of years. Then she notices what she was laying on --- a human skeleton. She screams in horror and flees from the cave.

Suspicion is aroused surrounding the missing sponsor, who is accused of a fund-raising scandal. Jim Chee, meanwhile, encounters a man who recently got out of prison and is seeing his sister-in-law, which draws Joe Leaphorn into the story as they investigate this man’s checkered past in selling stolen Indian artifacts. Is Cruz entangled in this activity to help raise funds for the money-strapped youth group?

Anne Hillerman, daughter of the late mystery writer Tony Hillerman, has continued the saga of two of the most beloved detectives in American western literature. Joe Leaphorn and Jim Chee brought the Southwest and Navajo and Hopi ways of life to millions of fans around the world. The Hillermans have enlightened us belaganas (the Navajo word for white man) to strong Southwestern Indian moral beliefs and ways of living. The atmospheric prose in CAVE OF BONES brings back fond memories of travel through this mysterious and legendary world that my family calls home.

It also reminds me of my encounter with Tony Hillerman at the Herberger Museum in Phoenix many years ago. It was my first book signing experience, and I had been collecting Hillerman’s paperbacks for years. As a greenhorn book junkie, I didn’t know that you don’t haul all of the author’s books on your shelves for the author to sign. Drawing scowls from fellow fans, I blushingly nodded at my armload of books, and Hillerman, who had just delivered a spellbinding speech about mystery writing, nodded graciously and allowed me to unload the pile. He signed each and every one --- a testament to the gentleman and scholar he was.

Reviewed by Roz Shea on April 6, 2018

Cave of Bones: A Leaphorn, Chee & Manuelito Novel
by Anne Hillerman

  • Publication Date: April 3, 2018
  • Genres: Fiction, Mystery
  • Hardcover: 320 pages
  • Publisher: Harper
  • ISBN-10: 0062391925
  • ISBN-13: 9780062391926