When a human skeleton is discovered on sacred Navajo land, the publicity surrounding the find sets off a vicious murder & widespread suspicion. After a Washington group hires Leaphorn to investigate "the fallen man," he joins Chee in unraveling the deadly intrigue
YAThe latest Jim Chee and Joe Leaphorn mystery has vivid descriptions of Native American mythology and traditions but lacks the suspense and tightly woven plot of the earlier titles in this popular series. A skeleton is found on a high ledge of Ship Rock mountain, a place sacred to the Navahos. Tribal Police Lieutenant Chee and the now retired Leaphorn suspect correctly that it belongs to a wealthy rancher missing for 11 years, and Chee tries to discover if it is murder or an accidental death. Meanwhile, Leaphorn is hired by a lawyer to look into the investigation for the rancher's Eastern family, who want to own his land legally so they can accept a lucrative bid for the mining rights. The obvious suspects, if there was foul play, are the young woman who inherited the ranch and her brother who manages it. In addition to uncovering the cause of death, Chee must determine if the rancher died before or after his 30th birthday when he legally inherited the ranch from a family trust. The continuing rocky romance between Chee and tribal lawyer Janet Pete brings an interesting love angle to the story. Environmentalism and the survival of Native American culture are strong themes.Penny Stevens, formerly at Fairfax County Public Library, VA -- PUBLISHERS WEEKLY.
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October 01, 1997
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Excerpt from The Fallen Man by Tony Hillerman
FROM WHERE BAI BUCHANAN SAT with his back resting against the rough breccia, he could see the side of Whiteside's head, about three feet away. When John leaned back, Buchanan could see the snowcapped top of Mount Taylor looming over Grants, New Mexico, about eighty miles to the east. Now John was leaning forward, talking.
"This climbing down to climb back up, and climbing up so you can climb back down again," Whiteside said. "That seems like a poor way to get the job done. Maybe it's the only way to get to the summit, but I'll bet we could find a faster way down."
"Relax," Buchanan said. "Be calm. We're supposed to be resting."
They were perched on one of the few relatively flat outcrops of basalt in what climbers of Ship Rock call Rappel Gully. On the way up, it was the launching point for the final hard climb to the summit, a slightly tilted but flat surface of basalt about the size of a desktop and 1,721 feet above the prairie below. If you were going down, it was where you began a shorter but even harder almost vertical climb to reach the slope that led you downward with a fair chance of not killing yourself.
Buchanan, Whiteside, and Jim Stapp had just been to the summit. They had opened the army surplus ammo box that held the Ship Rock climbers' register and signed it, certifying their conquest of one of North America's hard ones. Buchanan was tired. He was thinking that he was getting too old for this.