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Sergeant Jim Chee of the Navajo Tribal Police is troubled by the nameless corpse discovered just inside his jurisdiction, at the edge of the Jicarilla Apache natural gas field. More troubling still is the FBI’s insistence that the Bureau take over the case, calling the unidentifiedvictim’s death a “hunting accident.”
But if a hunter was involved, Chee knows the prey was intentionally human. This belief is shared by the “Legendary Lieutenant” Joe Leaphorn, who once again is pulled out of retirement by the possibility of serious wrongs being committed against the Navajo nation by the Washington bureaucracy. Yet it is former policewoman Bernadette Manuelito, recently relocated to Customs Patrol at the U.S. — Mexico border, who possibly holds the key to a fiendishly twisted conspiracy of greed, lies, and murder — and whose only hope for survival now rests in the hands of friends too far away for comfort.
Tony Hillerman is a national treasure, having achieved critical acclaim, chart-topping popularity, and a sterling reputation as an ambassador between whites and Indians. Fortunately, he’s also still a marvelous writer, much imitated but never equaled. The Sinister Pig–his 16th novel to feature Navajo cops Joe Leaphorn and/or Jim Chee–isn’t his best book, but it’s still a pleasure from the first page to the last. Its plot is almost too complex to summarize, involving the mysterious shooting of an ex-CIA agent, financial shenanigans around oil-and-gas royalties, disappearing congressional interns, exotic pipeline technology, and the cross-border trade in both drugs and illegal aliens.Officer Bernadette Manuelito has left the Navajo Tribal Police for the U.S. Customs Service, patrolling the barren borderlands of southern New Mexico. There, her curiosity and smarts land her in a growing peril that provides much of the book’s suspense–and invokes the protective instincts of Sergeant Chee, who still hasn’t quite been able to tell her how he feels about her. It’s impossible not to care about Hillerman’s exquisitely drawn repertory characters, nor to overlook the pleasures of his beautifully crafted and relaxed-seeming prose. In the midst of these virtues are a few warts: several sections are a little flat or awkward, and the villainous plutocrat behind it all is short on plausibility (though lots of fun to hate). But even a lesser Hillerman is still a richer, more satisfying read than most authors’ top stuff. –Nicholas H. Allison
From Publishers Weekly
Copyright 2003 Reed Business Information, Inc.
Top customer reviews
During the investigation of misappropriation of the Indian Tribal Royalty Trust an undercover agent is murdered in tribal lands. Someone has been syphoning off royalties from Indian lands. Readers learn of a powerful and corrupt member of congress who will do anything to fulfill his greed. While retired Joe Leaphorn and Jim Chee work for a solution to the murder and mystery Bernie Manuelito turns up on the New Mexico border with Mexican border working as a customs agent with the Border Patrol.
Bernie trails a suspicious vehicle to a locked gate. Owners of the property strictly enforce a no trespassing policy even though Bernie attempts to use her authority to pursue suspects. Through dogged determination she manages to get into the property where she takes some photos as evidence and others simply for personal interests, shooting exotic animals.
Her photos draw the interest of people on the property and work their way into the hands of some powerful criminals. The photos eventually place Bernie in the crosshairs of the corrupt politician and those who work for him.
The Sinister Pig presents a complex mystery that relies heavily on the skill of retired Navajo Tribal Police Lt. Joe Leaporn to connect the dots. It’s a classic Tony Hillerman mystery, well worth reading.
Officer Bernadette Manuelito is a good investigator – intrepid, clever and resourceful. But it’s these very qualities that seem to get her in difficulties. Now she’s no longer a cop working for Sergeant Chee at Shiprock. Partly to forget Chee, who’s failing to get romantic, she takes a job on the Mexican border. There she encounters some shady characters and dicey situations on a mysterious ranch stocked with exotic game animals.
Chee meanwhile is occupied with a mysteriously well-dressed unidentified dead body. Leaphorn too gets involved in this case. But neither is too busy to worry about Bernie and get involved in her complications.
Bernie gets a quick education on border patrolling, and so do we. There is a wonderfully despicable villain in the plot, and an unexpected hero.
Chee’s best friend Cowboy Dashee also plays a role. He’s an Apache and prone to poke fun at Navajos, the heredity enemy of his tribe. His quips are always amusing.
The Leaphorn and Chee mysteries are consistently delightful, with clever plots, tense action, engaging characters, terrific atmosphere, and always a fascinating picture of Native American culture in New Mexico.
But I will add that my husband, a fellow Hillerman fan, found this book a bit weak with the contrivance of too many coincidences. I also read in a book by Anne Hillerman that The Sinister Pig gave Hillerman the most trouble of all his books, because he was less familiar with the location. I love these books so much that I’m not critical of the contrivances. But see what you think.
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