16 July 2007

Coyote Waits

This is the first time I've read any of Tony Hillerman's novels. Most of the time I find mystery very dry, boring even. This I liked. It contains a lot of information about local Native cultures in the New Mexico area, and it reads like Hillerman has really done his research. There's a brief excerpt from his autobiography at the back of the book...where he talks about deciding what aspect of the culture he wants to focus on first, and then builds (or stumbles over) a plot to go around it.

As for Coyote Waits, it focuses on Navajo witchcraft tales and locales associated with witchcraft. It starts with a cop on a routine patrol who winds up getting shot and then burned to death in his car. It ends with possible evidence that Butch Cassidy was not killed in Bolivia. *grins* And, yes, there's a connection. Two investigators pick up different parts of the trail, eventually uniting to put them all together. Minor complaint there: the summaries whenever the two met were a bit off-putting, since an astute reader would already know all that. They could have been shortened to: "They compared notes," with subsequent bouncing ideas off of each other. I think I'm just picky, though.

One other complaint: The Chalk Outline Myth. The bits about jurisdiction on the reservation seemed accurate enough (to me). Apparently a homicide must be officially handled by the FBI, though local cops can look-on and assist. It's just that the chalk outline thing makes me wonder about the other police-procedural details... Since that one is likely part of Hillerman's cultural research, it's probably okay. Also, I had to check when the book came out (1990), because there were several places where I wondered "Why doesn't he have a cell phone?" Admittedly, it could then run out of power or be in a no service area... ;^)

Overall, if you like mysteries and have some interest in Native American cultures, I'd recommend this.

Not relevant to the review, but this book was my grandma's. She'd run out of things to read while she was in the hospital, so Mom had me go try to find her something she'd like. Mostly she read romances, and I wasn't about to try picking out any of those for her, but she also liked some of my mom's mystery books. I picked Hillerman because I had some vague interest in him, and because I knew that I would not accidentally duplicate anything she or Mom already had. And they've been stuck in a tv cabinet since we sorted through Grandma's books, and I finally picked this one up and started reading it a few days ago.

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