Friday, October 6

The Shape Shifter by Tony Hillerman

Review by Theodore Feit


This novel is all the legendary Lieutenant Joe Leaphorn, now retired from the Navajo Tribal Police and thoroughly bored, which the reader will not be as this unusual story progresses.  His usual sidekicks, Jim Chee and Bernie Manuelito (now Mrs. Chee), have just returned from their honeymoon and merely serve as the foils for the introduction and recap of the tale.


Leaphorn is bothered by one of his first cases when he was first starting out and called away from an old Indian grandmother complaining about the theft of two buckets of pinyon sap to a fire at a trading post in which he had previously seen a unique woven rug.  Fast forward to the present:  an old friend sends the lieutenant a tearsheet from a magazine in which a copy of the rug appears.  This intrigues both the friend and Joe who, along with everyone else, believe it was burned in the fire along with an FBI-most-wanted criminal.


When Leaphorn's friend is found dead in an automobile accident, Joe suspects murder, and the autopsy shows he was poisoned.  From this point, the story cascades into an investigation surrounding the death, the rug and the mysterious rich man who owns it. 


This is pure Hillerman, filled with Navajo lore and customs, set in the familiar territory and crafted subtly.  Another pure joy to read.


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