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Review: Spider Woman’s Daughter, by Anne Hillerman 2013

If you are a fan of the long, long series of novels by the late Tony Hillerman, you may be comforted by the fact that his daughter Anne has taken up where her dad left off.
If you are a devout Hillerman fan, you’ve probably already read Anne’s first novel in her continuation of the Leaphorn and Chee books. If you’re not already a fan, this is a good place to start. Or you could go back to The Blessing Way, which Tony wrote in 1970, and work your way through to Spider Woman’s Daughter.
Either way, the landscape is much the same. Ms. Hillerman stays in the American Southwest and her characters spend a great deal of time driving through the arid countryside, looking for clouds and wondering if it’s going to rain. This is the setting, and it has always been described through long road trips.
The people who do the driving this time are Jim Chee and his wife (and fellow Navajo police person) Bernie Manuelito. Retried police lieutenant Joe Leaphorn does no driving at all. As he is leaving the regular Monday morning coffee party/staff meeting at a local cafe, he is shot. The wound is serious and Leaphorn spends the entire book in hospital, close to death and unable to say who shot him.
Bernie is the only witness to the assault and provides the few clues that enable the entire police force, and the FBI, to search for the assailant. She can identify the car, but has only a general description of the shooter. The car is soon found, but it turns out that it is often loaned out to a long list of friends and the list leads to “persons of interest” who don’t maintain their interest very long.
Ms. Hillerman, a former award-winning reporter, knows how to write and has used her skills to do an excellent job of creating a novel that easily matches those of her father. If you didn’t know she wrote it, you’d swear it was Tony himself.
Leaphorn doesn’t die in hospital; nobody really thought he would. And he manages to scribble a clue on a piece of paper, a clue that, after the killer is caught, makes perfect sense.

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