Officer Bernadette Manuelito found the dead man slumped over in the cab of a blue pickup abandoned in a dry gulch off a dirt road, with a rich ex-con's phone number in his pocket . . . and a tobacco tin nearby filled with tracer gold. It's her initial mishandling of the scene that spells trouble for her supervisor, Sergeant Jim Chee of the Navajo Tribal Police, but it's the echoes of a long-ago crime that call the legendary former Lieutenant Joe Leaphorn out of retirement. Years earlier, Leaphorn followed the trail of a beautiful, young, and missing wife to a dead end, and his failure has haunted him ever since. But ghosts never sleep in these high, lonely Southwestern hills. And the twisted threads of craven murders past and current may finally be coming together, thanks to secrets once moaned in torment on the desert wind.
The 15th Chee/Leaphorn mystery (after 1999's relatively weak Hunting Badger) finds MWA Grand Master Hillerman back at the top of his form as his two Navajo peace officers look into both a past and present mystery. Religious fervency and single-minded greed become strange but necessary bedfellows in a plot filled, as always, with insights into the lives and beliefs of the "Dineh." When an abandoned pickup truck turns out to contain one very dead white man, Sgt. Jim Chee's instincts lead him to bring retired Lt. Joe Leaphorn into the case. Leaphorn's trademark curiosity sends him in search of possible links between this homicide and another two years earlier. The first murder occurred on Halloween day when Wiley Denton supposedly shot Marvin McKay in self-defense after McKay tried to sell him bogus information about an old gold mine. That same day Denton's wife, Linda, disappeared; she has never been heard from again. Leaphorn's recollection of what had been shrugged off as a Halloween prank out at old Fort Wingate now becomes the itch he has to scratch. It seems a group of teens shortcutting across the area had endured a close call with La Llorana, a mythical wailing woman. The information he gathers adds yet another piece to the puzzle of the missing Linda. Chee is up to his elbows in not only the investigation but also in sorting through his growing emotional confusion about the beautiful Bernadette Manuelito. The seemingly insignificant turns critical and the loose ends tie up in one tidy conclusion as Hillerman repeatedly shines in this masterfully complex new novel. Copyright 2002 Cahners Business Information.