There is a murder in Shiprock, NM. Jim Chee can’t investigate because the FBI is involved in the case. But he finds an angle, a missing girl who is related to one of the people involved.
His investigation takes him to Los Angeles, where we view the white poverty through his eyes. As usual in these books, the Navajo culture is a strong influence on the story. We learn about ghosts, and the ghostway, which is a cleansing ceremony for someone who has been in an infected hogan, by the chindi.
A third story line is with Joe’s fiancé, Mary Landon. She is pressuring him to leave the reservation and join the FBI. He is torn between the world he knows and loves, and the unknown of the white world. And he is concerned for the Navajo culture, he is one of a very few young people who is studying the old ways. He is working to become a yataalii, a medicine man. If he leaves, that would be a great loss to the tribe.
Although the story involving the death and the FBI is the main mystery, the story is more about Jim Chee’s struggle to resolve his relationship with Mary. Mary appears very little through the book, but plays a vital part. Tony Hillerman’s storytelling is excellent, the pacing is right and he gives a very good feel for the New Mexico area and the Navajo culture.
This is an excellent read, and a must-read for any Hillerman fans.