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by Anne Hillerman
Harper, April 2023
288 pages
ISBN: 0062908391

Buy in the UK | Buy in Canada

Some authors transport the reader to a new location with lyrically descriptive prose. Hillerman is not one of those. Her spare, straightforward writing style is so fitting for the vast open landscape of the Southwest that we feel as though we are in the Valley of the Gods at Bears Ears National Monument from almost the first words of THE WAY OF THE BEAR. This is a place of healing and, in the continuation of Tony Hillerman's series written by his daughter, Anne Hillerman, her main character, Bernie Manuelito, does just that.

Jim Chee, newly a Lieutenant in the Navajo Police Force, heads to Bears Ears for business reasons and invites his wife, Bernie, to join him. Bernie, dealing with recent setbacks and traumas both personal and professional, could use some time alone in the quiet beauty of the Park, communing with the spirits of her Navajo ancestors. Unfortunately, on her first trip into the Valley of the Gods, she is stunned to find evidence of what appears to be illegal digging and defacement of native petroglyphs. This forces a switch from a contemplative spiritual journey to a dangerous investigative one.

At the same time, Chee finds himself pulled into an investigation of a missing paleontologist and a related murder. A major snowstorm is predicted as both Chee and Bernie find themselves in precarious situations within the Park, able to communicate only rarely due to the spotty cell service. As both attempt to close out their unofficial responsibilities and head home to Shiprock before the storm makes that impossible, their two cases merge. In the face of perilous circumstances, Bernie finds the strength she hoped for at Bears Ears, if not in the manner she expected.

There are some truly fascinating background plots in this book including the conflict between scientific research and mercenary paleontologists, prosopagnosia, and Navajo beliefs about witchcraft. Bernie's primary place in the series brings a softer side to relationships with the birth of a baby playing a key role in both the plot and character development in this book.

Although this is the eighth book in the series written by Anne Hillerman (following the first 18 written by Tony Hillerman before his death), it could easily be an entry point to the series. Bernie faces her demons in the book, but the emphasis is on her current struggle to move past them rather than on their development in the past. She is now at a crossroads and it will be interesting to see where she goes in the future.

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

Reviewed by Sharon Mensing, April 2023

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Contact: Yvonne Klein (ymk@reviewingtheevidence.com)

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