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Rock with Wings: 02/01/17

Rock with Wings by Anne Hillerman

Rock with Wings by Anne Hillerman is the twentieth in the Navajo Mystery series and the second on by Anne. It's a series that is three years older than I am and one I've been following my entire adult life.

The title for this book refers to Ship Rock (the land formation that's unmistakable as you're driving into Shiprock). Apparently Shiprock the city was made one word for the convenience of the U.S. postal service. As a resident of a nonexistent piece of Hayward (in that it's actually an unincorporated neighborhood named Fairview), I can see the postal service doing this.

But the mystery is really two pieces of a larger whole — again, something that's been a trademark of this series since its earliest days. One mystery is set on the outskirts of Shiprock and the other is set just outside Monument Valley. While both Jim and Bernadette who should be on vacation together, they each end up investigating a crime. Jim's involves an illegal burial on Navajo lands and Bernadette's involves a nervous man carrying dirt.

I'm going to be up front and say that I figured out Bernadette's half of the mystery very quickly. With any mystery, if you have personal knowledge it's easy to connect the dots with the first set of clues. Nonetheless, it was still fun to see all come together.

Now if my mother had read the book (and maybe she has) I bet Jim Chee's half of the mystery would come together first. It involves the long history of the area being used for filmmaking, starting with Stagecoach. I've certainly seen the film but I've never visited the valley nor have I stayed at the hotel that plays such a big part in Jim's half of the book — but she and my dad have.

As with Spider Woman's Daughter, Bernadette is a fully rendered character. Frankly I find myself relating more to her than either of the other two leads. Back when she was first introduced in Hunting Badger she was presented as someone even more superstitious (meaning traditional) than Jim Chee (who was originally training to be a hataali). As originally written there was no believable reason for her to have chosen to be on the police force. All that has changed under Anne Hillerman's fleshing out of Bernadette Manuelito.

The next book in the series is Song of the Lion which comes out this summer.

Five stars

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