What I’m Reading Now (Song of the Lion)

As mentioned, it was a thrill to learn that Tony Hillerman’s daughter had continued writing his series about the Navajo tribal police officers Joe Leaphorn and Jim Chee and that Anne Hillerman had added a lead female character.

Song of the Lion has Lieutenant Leaphorn, the more assimilated of the original pair, retired in name but keeping his hand in as much as the effects of a stroke will let him. Sergeant Chee has married fellow Navajo Officer Bernadette Manuelito who takes the lead here.

The action in Song of the Lion starts with a literal bang as a car bomb explodes, killing a man, outside the biggest high school basketball game of the year at Shiprock High School. Manuelito, who is smart and efficient and just as good an officer as the others of course must battle sexism along with the racism of the white state cops and FBI as they all investigate what they believe is an attempt to derail a mediation over a proposed mega development in the Grand Canyon.

Anne Hillerman continues the themes of her father’s works – the uses and abuses of the environment, conflict between Hopi and Navajo, the latter group’s need to spread out across the land even when it might belong to someone else, reverence for the elders, and the need to maintain traditions.

At times, the voices didn’t feel as clear as they were in The Blessing Way and Talking God, but the narrative arc is just as engrossing. And the dénouement left me gasping.

Mostly, though, it was a pleasure to be reading about a culture that values nature and the wisdom of age while exploring Japan, another culture that does the same.


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