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The Wailing Wind    by Tony Hillerman order for
Wailing Wind
by Tony Hillerman
Order:  USA  Can
HarperTorch, 2003 (2002)
Hardcover, Paperback, Audio, CD

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* *   Reviewed by G. Hall

Long-time Hillerman fans were thrilled recently with the issue of The Wailing Wind, the latest in a long series of books about Navajo policemen Joe Leaphorn and Jim Chee. This series, started in the early 1970's, opened up the American mystery genre beyond its more traditional hard-boiled boundaries by introducing readers to a whole new world. Readers could learn about the American Southwest and Navajo life along with enjoying a good mystery. The genre has not been the same since, and Hillerman eventually earned the American Indian's Ambassador Award and the Navajo Tribe's Special Friend Award for his excellent depictions of Navajo life.

In its early days the series alternated between books about Lieutenant Joe Leaphorn and those about Sergeant Jim Chee. Eventually Hillerman started using both men in the same books allowing readers to enjoy the somewhat prickly relationship between the older, more experienced and worldly Leaphorn and the younger Chee, who clung more to his traditional Navajo ways.

This combination has been a winner and is continued in this newest book in which Leaphorn is retired and Jim Chee is a supervisor. Of course, a good policeman never fully retires and a dead body that appears to link back to an old case from Leaphorn's time, draws him back into an investigation. The body is found in an isolated ravine with a tin containing flakes of gold. Evidence soon turns up showing the victim was searching for one of the many mythical gold mines in the area.

This story focusses more on Bernie Manuelito, the young Navajo policewoman who finds the body. She is an appealing character - to the reader and also to Jim Chee. We can only hope that Chee, who has had several unsucessful relationships in previous books, will find happiness with Bernie.

As always in Hillerman novels, the mystery is well-done with interesting minor characters and a good solid plot. But the best part, and the reason readers keep returning to his books, is the setting in Navajo Territory and the chance to learn more about Navajo life. The Wailing Wind is definitely a good read, but those new to Hillerman are advised to try some of his even better earlier efforts such as Dance Hall of the Dead, The Blessing Way and A Thief of Time.

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