It's pretty well understood that mysteries come with an implied contract. Authors, for their part, promise to deliver plots and resolutions, however improbable, with some degree of plausibility. Readers, in turn, give an author a 50-50 shot by turning down the gain on their innate disbelief. Then along comes Grandmother Spider
and all bets are off.
Southern Ute tribal policeman Charlie Moon has a problem. It seems that, thanks to the imprudent squishing of a wayward spider, the giant spirit Grandmother Spider has risen from her cave below Navajo Lake and exacted revenge on humanity by snatching the research scientist William Pizinski and Tommy Tonompicket, the local carouser with whom he was drinking. Charlie knows this because the squisher was Sarah Frank, the 9-year-old ward of his elderly, shamanic, and altogether elsewhere aunt, Daisy Perika. And Daisy got it straight from a dwarfish spirit called a pitukupf.
The pitukupf half smiled, exposing jagged rows of yellowed teeth. He vigorously stirred the crooked stick in the embers under the apparition, kindling new flames. The dwarf ceremoniously lifted the helical baton like a conductor calling dark chords from an unseen orchestra. The glowing sparks swirled up the column of heated air... and the hideous image of the eight-legged creature followed. As it ascended, the grayish form took on the bright orange hue of the yellow flames beneath it. The apparition grew larger, the entrapped man struggled vainly in hope of release. And screamed piteously for someone to help him.
And that's not the half of it. Before long, Charlie and his friend, Granite Creek Police Chief Scott Parris, are up to their gun belts in national security issues, mutilated bodies, hideous creatures roaming the countryside snatching sandwiches from the mouths of 80-year-olds, and the bizarre reappearance of the two missing and now-amnesiac tipplers. And, happily, that's still not the half of it.
Grandmother Spider is Charlie Moon's sixth, strangest, and perhaps funniest airing (from 1994's The Shaman Sings through 1999's The Night Visitor). With mystery and mysticism enough to satisfy Hillerman's fans, and humor, memorable characterization, and good writing enough to satisfy everyone else, who's going to quibble about a silly old contract? -- Michael Hudson
From Publishers Weekly
Mysteries with Native American characters seem to come in two varieties: tough-minded and realistic (think Tony Hillerman's Leaphorn/Chee stories and Peter Bowen's books about Montana's Gabriel Du Pr ), or softer and sillierDlike Doss's Shaman series about Ute policeman Charlie Moon and his dotty old aunt, Daisy Perika. Number six in the series is even sillier than its predecessors, setting up a ludicrous situationDthree men savagely attacked by what seems to be a giant spider or an alien space vehicleDand then daring the reader to come up with some other, more rational explanation. Moon, a slow-moving giant who would rather eat or fish than do the heavy lifting involved in police work, doesn't add much energy or action to the story: he spends most of his time jousting verbally with his aunt Daisy about her visions and beliefs or romancing a totally unlikely Hollywood glamour girl dropped into the scene to extend a thin story. And while it's true that most readers won't guess what it was that actually attacked rocket scientist William Pizinski's pickup truck on the shore of Navajo Lake in Colorado, it's also true that not many of them will stick around until the dumb little secret is revealed. (Jan. 9)
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