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    Review of THE SINISTER PIG by Tony Hillerman (see his website)

    HarperCollins, May 2003

    When a man is found killed on Jim Chee's reservation, the FBI swoops in and D.C. headquarters determines it a hunting accident. Chee doesn't think so, but he doesn't know where to take it until he gets a letter from Bernie Manuelito--now a border patrol officer. Bernie has seen strange things on the border but when her boss takes her picture and then that picture shows up in drug runners' offices, she knows she is in trouble. She may value her independence, but she knows when she's in over her head and she is. With a little help from Lt. Joe Leaphorn, Chee untangles a mystery that involves a missing $40 billion of Bureau of Indian Affairs royalty money and the U.S./Mexico drug smuggling business. Whether he'll unravel the clues in time to save Bernie is another question.

    Tony Hillerman fans (see more reviews of novels by Hillerman) will be overjoyed to see a new mystery featuring the wonderful Chee and Leaphorn. Both men are still struggling with their love interests, unable to quite put things together, suddenly inarticulate in the presence of the women they love. THE SINISTER PIG takes the mystery largely off the reservation and so misses out on the Native American culture and religion that provides such a depth to many of Hillerman's earlier Chee and Leaphorn novels.

    Hillerman is cynical about the war on drugs, recognizing that its biggest supporters include the smugglers themselves--criminals who would be out of business if drugs were legalized and who are willing to do virtually anything to prevent this disaster. As always in Hillerman novels, the FBI is treated as incompetent and corrupt at the D.C. level, even as it sends its most talented agents into the hinterland. Hillerman also takes a dig at the Department of Homeland Security, recognizing that adding a layer of bureaucracy may not be the best way to improve safety.

    Hillerman's strong writing makes this short mystery a page turner. Fans will want to read it even as they hope that Hillerman will return to the Native American culture that makes many of his earlier novels so powerful.

    Two Stars

    Reviewed 7/03/03

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