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Spider Woman's Daughter (Navajo Mysteries Book 19) Kindle Edition

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Length: 433 pages Word Wise: Enabled Enhanced Typesetting: Enabled
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Editorial Reviews Review

Anne Hillerman: Why I Decided to Continue Tony Hillerman's Chee/Leaphorn Series

Anne Hillerman

When Dad died in 2008, he left big shoes to fill. I loved to sit in his home office, surrounded by the books and maps he used as part of his research, and listen as he read just-finished passages he was especially proud of. (Despite living in New Mexico for more than fifty years, Dad never lost his Oklahoma twang.) Jim Chee and Joe Leaphorn seemed like my uncles, part of our family. With millions of others of Dad’s fans, I would wait restlessly for the latest installment of their adventures. When Dad received a box of first editions of the newest book from HarperCollins, he never forgot to autograph one for me. I have these in my living room, my most treasured possessions.

Dad and I and my husband Don Strel worked together for several years on a non-fiction book, Tony Hillerman’s Landscape: On the Road with Chee and Leaphorn. As part of my research, I had the pleasure of re-reading each Leaphorn Chee book and of talking to Dad about how he developed the plot, themes and settings. The research gave me precious insights into my dad as an author and admirer of the Navajo people and their sacred landscape.

As part of our conversations, Dad and I discusssed Bernadette Manuelito, the Navajo police officer whom he used in several books. In his final novel, The Shape Shifter, she has progressed from Chee’s girlfriend to his wife and is doing research for Leaphorn. I suggested that Dad might have fun creating a story in which Bernie actually got to solve the crime instead of working as sidekick. “That’s an interesting idea,” I remember him saying.”If I were energetic enough to write a few more of these, I might do it.”

Dad died in October 27, 2008. The book we worked on together came out the following year. As Don and I toured the country talking about Tony Hillerman’s Landscape, the question people asked me most often was “Did Tony have another novel to continue the series?” The answer was “no.” Nothing squirreled away in a file cabinet or saved on his computer. His fans didn’t like that response. Neither did I, but it was the undeniable truth.

When I emerged from the worst of my grief after Dad’s death, I realized that I was also mourning the end of his mystery series. I missed those detectives, and I especially regretted that Bernadette Manuelito would never get a book that put her in the spotlight. And then I thought: I could try writing Bernie’s book myself. If I didn’t like it, I could hit the delete key. In addition to Hillerman’s Landscape, I had written several other books, so I knew part of the challenge that faced me. I jotted down some ideas as a rough outline and got to work.

Because Dad’s books were fresh in my mind, I decided to use some of his favorite settings for what became Spider Woman’s Daughter. These included Gallup, N.M., Window Rock, Az., the imaginary Navajo Inn, and the very real and mysterious Chaco Canyon. Because I live in Santa Fe, I thought it would be fun to devise a reason to bring Dad’s famous detectives to my home town. I developed the plot by trial and error, frequently asking myself how Dad would handle things. I missed him fiercely as I wrote but sometimes felt as if he was looking over my shoulder.

After I’d written enough to hope that my ideas might be of interest to someone other than me, I spoke to my mother, my father’s first and best editor for every book he wrote. She brainstormed with me, sharing her vast knowledge of Dad’s work and her sterling memory of characters and settings. With her blessing, I contacted Dad’s editor, Carolyn Marino at HarperCollins, to make sure there weren’t any copyright issues or other hurdles. Marino not only reassured me, she offered to take a look at whatever I came up with when I felt ready.

I worked on Spider Woman’s Daughter for three years with encouragement from my writer friends and help from law enforcement experts, Navajos, archaeologists and more. I think my Dad, who firmly believed in Heaven, sent along some inspiration.

One of Dad’s skills was the ability to start his books with a scene that whetted the reader’s appetite for more. I knew that getting off on the right foot would be crucial for my book. Here’s a brief excerpt from my opening scene. Bernadette Manuelito has just left a meeting at the Navajo Inn to take a phone call from her husband, fellow officer Jim Chee. Joe Leaphorn heads out too, planning to drive home.

Through the lobby window, Bernie saw someone climb out of the blue sedan backed in next to Leaphorn’s white truck. She watched Leaphorn walk toward the truck, extract the keys from his pants pocket.

“You still grumpy?” Chee asked. “I got off to a bad start this morning.”

The person extended an arm toward the lieutenant. Bernie saw a gun. Heard the unmistakable crack of the shot. Saw Leaphorn stagger back, falling against his picku0. Crumple to the asphalt.

She dropped her phone as if it were on fire, Chee still talking, and ran. Pushing the restaurant’s heavy glass doors open, she raced toward Leaphorn, reaching for her gun. She watched the shooter scramble into the car and heard the sedan’s tires on the asphalt as it sped away, keeping the car in her peripheral vision as she reached the lieutenant. Squatting down, Bernie pressed her fingers beneath his jaw, feeling for the thread of a pulse against her fingertips.

I think Dad would have liked Spider Woman’s Daughter. I’m pleased with it and I hope that his readers will be too.

From Booklist

Hillerman, who has written some nonfiction, now tries her hand at fiction, incorporating some of her late father Tony’s characters into the story. Although billed as a “Leaphorn & Chee Novel,” neither character is really in the spotlight here. That position is reserved for Navajo Tribal Police Officer Bernadette “Bernie” Manualito, Chee’s wife. When the retired Leaphorn is shot right in front of Bernie, and the assailant escapes, Bernie swears she’ll find the person responsible. As a witness, however, Bernie is removed from the case and relegated to finding Leaphorn’s family. Jim Chee is put in charge, but he knows very well that stubborn, determined Bernie won’t stand down, especially when someone she considers an “uncle” is the victim. Hillerman builds upon characters and themes from her father’s Thief of Time (1988), applying her own knowledge of contemporary Navajo culture. The spiritual elements prominent in previous Leaphorn-Chee books are downplayed, and the measured plot (with perhaps too much attention to the desert landscape) has few surprises. What intrigues is Bernie herself, a devoted young Native American balancing her heritage and family obligations with the demands of a difficult job. --Stephanie Zvirin

Product Details

  • File Size: 913 KB
  • Print Length: 433 pages
  • Page Numbers Source ISBN: 0062278576
  • Publisher: Harper; Reissue edition (October 1, 2013)
  • Publication Date: October 1, 2013
  • Sold by: HarperCollins Publishers
  • Language: English
  • Text-to-Speech: Enabled
  • X-Ray:
  • Word Wise: Enabled
  • Lending: Not Enabled
  • Enhanced Typesetting: Enabled
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #9,839 Paid in Kindle Store (See Top 100 Paid in Kindle Store)
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More About the Author

Anne Hillerman, daughter of best-selling mystery writer Tony Hillerman, will continue her father's Navajo detective series with "Spider Woman's Daughter," due for publication Oct. 1, 2013 (HarperCollins.) The book follows the adventures of Joe Leaphorn, Jim Chee and Bernadette Manuelito as they track a would-be cop killer, travel to Chaco Canyon on the trail of a murderer, and discover intrigue in the world of ancient Indian art and artifacts.
She is the author eight non-fiction books including "Tony Hillerman's Landscape: On the Road with Chee and Leaphorn." She and photographer Don Strel made numerous road trips to photograph and write about the landscapes beloved by New Mexico's best known mystery writer. Working on that book inspired her novel.
"In the process of researching Tony Hillerman's Landscape, I re-read all of the Chee/Leaphorn mysteries, paying close attention to the settings. I ran into mud, dust storms, rez dogs, snow and those pricelessly beautiful days Tony Hillerman wrote about for more than 35 years," Anne said. "I loved nearly every minute of it. My personal highlights included New Mexico's Bisti badlands, the mysterious landscape near Ship Rock and vast, empty Chaco Canyon."
Anne, the eldest of Tony and Marie Hillerman's six children, came to New Mexico as a child and enjoys living in the Southwest. She is currently at work on the second book in the new mystery series.
Her other major non-fiction projects include "Gardens of Santa Fe," with features photos of Santa Fe's finest gardens and interviews with their creators, and "Santa Fe Flavors: Best Restaurants and Recipes." Both received top honors at the New Mexico Book Awards. She worked for many years as a journalist, receiving awards for her writing from the New Mexico Press Association and the National Federation of Press Women. When she isn't working, Anne likes to ski, garden and experiment with new recipes in the kitchen. She is a founder of the Tony Hillerman Writers Conference held annually in Santa Fe, N.M.

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
I'm always nervous when another author takes over writing a favorite series, especially one as long-running as Chee and Leaphorn. I had nothing to fear this time. Ms. Hillerman has done a masterful job of extending her father's series. Her writing is well-crafted, and her ear for the dialogue of our favorite characters is true. The plot's echoes of prior adventures has twists and turns that kept me reading straight through until the end without a break.

I especially enjoyed getting to know Bernie Manuelito as a true fully dimensional character in her own right, rather than a supporting character to Chee. The weaving of stories of the old ones into Bernie's everyday life as a modern Navajo woman adds texture and color in subtle but instructive ways. I'm looking forward to hearing more of her adventures.

Let me add that I'm not a professional reviewer. I'm just an avid mystery reader from Albuquerque who really enjoyed this book. I'm so happy the series is in such capable hands.
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Format: Kindle Edition
I never imagined that I would see another book in the Leaphorn and Chee series. I was so excited when I saw that Tony Hillerman's daughter had decided to carry on the series that had been such a joy to read. This series always put me into a laid back, commune with mother earth, kind of feel. I would feel in a really good place while reading Mr. Hillerman's books. When Mr. Hillerman passed in 2008, I figured that the series died with him.

Anne Hillerman has done a great job continuing the series, while making it her own. She has allowed Jim Chee's wife, Bernadette, to tell the story. This gets the reader to accept the slight differences in writing style as a logical extension of the change in point of view. Everything feels so right and comfortable. My heart leaps with joy to have this series returned to me! I want to thanks Ms. Hillerman for bringing the Navajo Nation's finest back into my life.

I give this book 5 Stars out of 5 and Two Big Thumbs Up! Anyone who loved the Leaphorn and Chee series will love this fine addition.

If you have never read any books in this series, don't be afraid to jump right in with this one. You won't feel lost, not knowing the backstories, since this book doesn't rely on your knowing what went on before. You also will be able to go back and read the earlier books, since there really are no spoilers here.

I received this Digital Review Copy for free from
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Format: Hardcover
This is a difficult book to review. On the one hand, it is the 19th entry in a popular series, so we come with pretty fixed preconceptions. On the other hand, it is a "first novel," so some of those preconceptions are not really germane. Add the complication that the quality of the Chee/Leaphorn books fell precipitately during the last years of Tony Hillerman's career, and you have yet another ambiguous gauge for this novel.

It's good enough that I'll be ready to buy another, if there is another. It's better than the last three novels, and about on par with The Wailing Wind. Anne Hillerman has a firm grasp of the unique setting, in the broadest sense, of the Chee/Leaphorn world. The book is fun because it does the "Navajo schtick" very well, balancing insider/outsider perspectives as delicately and respectfully as Tony did, and it provides understanding of the Navajo world tempered by the humility of a sympathetic white outsider. The book focuses on Bernie Manuelito, Jim Chee's love interest (now wife) and a solid competent cop in her own right. Looking at the world through Bernie's eyes is a nice tweak of the usual Hillerman territory, and elements of Bernie's personal story are promising for future development.

What's bad about it? Well most notably, Anne doesn't have a very good grasp of how to write a mystery. That was one of Tony's fortes, although in the books after The First Eagle he pretty much coasted for that element. Here, we figure out the killer's identity long before we are supposed to, and Jim Chee's inability to catch up with us is exasperating. Bernie lacks a good deal of information available to Chee (she has been ordered off the case), but it does seem that she is awfully slow to put two and two together.
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Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
Ann Hillerman gives us lyrical descriptions of the Navajo lands she knows well. Our favorite characters are there; the plot is reasonably convincing. What is missing is the slow tempo, the deep love of the Navajos and their ancient culture that made Tony Hillerman mesmerizing. However this is the first book of what could be a very good series; let's give her another chance!
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Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
what a treat!!!! I could not put the book down....started at 830pm - finished at 330 am. as a devoted tony hillerman fan, I was not sure anne could pull off taking over leaphorn and chee. she did a stellar job. actually devoted more time to character development perhaps than tony had.

the descriptions of the southwest are stunning!!!! and her descriptions of the chaco canyon area are spot on [ I have been there many times over the past 30 years. the road is still terrible}.

perhaps not quite as clever as tony in hiding the villain [ I caught on to the killer about mid-book] but hey this is her first time with the chees and leaphorn]. that will change as she becomes more familiar with l and c.

thank you anne hillerman.....I am awaiting the next leaphorn and chee.

sharyl g mcdowell
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