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SONG OF THE LION
by Anne Hillerman
Harper, April 2017
304 pages
$27.99
ISBN: 0062391909


Buy in the UK | Buy in Canada

Officer Bernadette Manuelito is at an alums vs. varsity basketball game on the Navajo reservation when a car bomb goes off. Although she's not on duty, she steps into the void and takes charge of the situation until the FBI, which normally handles bombings, can take over. The owner of the car, one of the alums playing in the game, is a mediator/lawyer on his way to help the various contentious groups weigh in on the possibility of a new Native American resort on the edge of the Grand Canyon. Since there's a concern that the lawyer's car was blown up by one of the interested parties in this mediation, Manuelito's husband Officer Jim Chee is assigned duty as a sort of glorified bodyguard.

Manuelito uses her time off to meet up with retired lieutenant Joe Leaphorn for advice, and then to travel to Tuba City to spend some time with Chee while he's in the midst of what appears to be sabotage related to the mediation. Complicated relationships, both professional and personal, are teased out as a clearer picture emerges of both the car bombing and the problems associated with the mediation. As a consequence, Manuelito, as well as Chee's charge, find themselves in grave peril.

The author, Anne Hillerman, follows in her father's (prolific and bestselling Tony Hillerman's) footsteps as she writes evocatively of the landscape of the West. The isolation of many of the reservation's residents is well described, as is the natural beauty of the area surrounding the Grand Canyon. The conflict between the traditional ways of the Native elders and their children's desires for a better, more modern, life plays out in several of the relationships. The description of the spiritual connection between Manuelito and her spirit animal, the cougar, is one of the most moving moments in the book. Manuelito, Chee, and Leaphorn are fully formed characters, but many of the less central characters are equally well developed.

The plot is engaging, although it is sometimes interrupted by introspection by several of the characters. In the lead up to the ending, the tension is palpable. However, the final resolution to the Grand Canyon resort plans is rushed and far-fetched. For those who are familiar with Tony Hillerman's books, or with the two previous books by Anne Hillerman involving the same characters, there is a continuing deep connection with the history of the area. However, the book could quite easily be picked up and enjoyed by a reader unfamiliar with either of the Hillermans' previous work, if such a reader exists.

Sharon Mensing, retired educational leader, lives, reads, and enjoys the outdoors in rural Wyoming.

Reviewed by Sharon Mensing, May 2017

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Contact: Yvonne Klein (ymk@reviewingtheevidence.com)


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