Friday, February 9, 2018

Rock with Wings: a very short review

Continuing on from her promising first effort, Anne Hillerman continues developing the tale of the Navajo Tribal Police characters created by her father, Tony, in Rock With Wings.

For the most part, detective novels follow a certain overall structure:

  1. A crime occurs, and our detective is on the job
  2. Clues are introduced, sleuthing is undertaken
  3. Obstacles arise, and blind alleys are traversed
  4. The solution is revealed, closure is achieved

Anne Hillerman, however, is walking a different path.

Clearly (and rather justifiably), Hillerman has different priorities; I suspect they go something along the lines of:

  1. Check in on Chee, Manuelito, and Leaphorn, and see how they are doing.
  2. Keep an eye on the Navajo Reservation, see what's happening
  3. Take care of the day-to-day maintenance that's part of ordinary Tribal Police life
  4. Oh, and if a crime occurs, well, that will need some attention.

If you're going to enjoy Rock With Wings (and you should), you'll need to settle into a different way of looking at the world, a way that's more aligned with the way that Officer Bernie Manuelito looks at the world.

Sure enough, there is a crime: it's something having to do with money laundering, securities fraud, and Las Vegas.

Yet we barely even hear about that crime! It figures in, here and there, and in the end the proper authorities are informed.

Meanwhile, back in the part of the world that actually matters to Hillerman:

  • A mystery involving protected and endangered miniature barrel cacti is resolved
  • A lost necklace is restored to its rightful heir
  • The complications of integrating solar panel power generators into the high desert are depicted
  • An elderly couple are educated about the complexities of tribal lands, and helped to understand how burial customs differ among cultures

And all of these tales are woven through the movies of John Ford, the mesas of Monument Valley, and, of course, the Rock With Wings itself, Tse Bit a i, Ship Rock.

You won't find pulse-pounding entertainment here.

You won't even find out who the money launderers are, and why they got into such a dispute.

What you will find, however, is a commitment to place, to character, and to time.

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