Wednesday, October 23, 2013

Spider Woman's Daughter - A Review

Guest post by Baloo.

Awhile back, when I was reviewing Craig Johnson's excellent Longmire books, I remarked that I'd finally found something to fill the void left when Tony Hillerman had died and stopped writing his excellent Leaphorn and Chee books. Well, now there's an embarrassment of riches, because Anne Hillerman, Tony's daughter, has stepped up to the plate and continued the series with Spider Woman's Daughter. Naturally, I was apprehensive about this book. I was ravenous for another Hillerman story, but in the back of my mind I was thinking, his daughter wrote this. What are the chances that it got published on the strength of the relationship, like Adrian Conan Doyle's Sherlock Holmes stories, and will be a disappointment? The chances are good, but in this case it's not so. This is as good as any of Tony Hillerman's novels, and, in my opinion, breaks new ground and advances rather than just continues the story. Leaphorn and Chee are there, and there are no false notes in their portrayal. And a secondary character in Tony's last book, Bernie Manuelito, steps to the front and leads this story. Hillerman fans will not be disappointed, but rather delighted, with this book. And now, for those of you who don't want to know any more before you read it, do skip the rest of this review.  Spoiler alert.... Here's a Navajo rug to separate the spoilers

This novel was, oddly, more familiar to me than any of the earlier ones, largely because of the setting. Much of the action is in Santa Fe, where I've spent a lot of time, and relatively little on the Navajo Reservation, the scene of most Hillerman books.  I've only been there once or twice. And an oddity is that the plot seemed weirdly familiar to me, too, and halfway through I realized why. Years ago I wrote up a scenario for a Columbo special that never went anywhere, of course. It was after the last of the TV shows, and Peter Falk was still around but probably beyond doing much acting. So my story called for him to appear on screen at Columbo's retirement ceremony, his retirement from the LAPD, only to be shot soon afterwards in the parking lot as he was climbing into his famous funny car. No one happened to witness it except, at a distance, Columbo's daughter, who we'd never heard of during years of the TV show, portrayed by Janeane Garofalo. We'd never heard of her because she's a cop in New York. And the plot of this special is all about her tracking down his killer, with allusions to several of his previous cases, as she tries to figure out which of the many perps he caught is responsible for his shooting, which Columbo himself can't help with, because he's in the hospital in a coma, unable to communicate.  That would have made a very nice show, don't you think?  Anyhow, the plot of Spider Woman's Daughter is eerily similar.  Get it and read it.  You'll like it.

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