The victim, well dressed but stripped of identification, is found at the edge of the vast Jicarilla Apache natural gas field just inside the jurisdiction of the Navajo Tribal Police, facing Sergeant Jim Chee with a complex puzzle.
Why did the Washington office of the FBI snatch custody of this case from its local agents and call it a hunting accident? On a level nearer to Chee's heart, did the photographs Bernie Manuelito took on an exotic game ranch near the Mexican border reveal something connected with this crime?
It is, finally, "Legendary Lieutenant" Joe Leap-horn, now retired, who connects the lines on a dusty old map to find the answers -- and the Sinister Pig -- among the great scimitar-horned oryx grazing on the historic old Tuttle Ranch.
Tony Hillerman is a national treasure, having achieved critical acclaim, chart-topping popularity, and a sterling reputation as an ambassador between whites and Indians. Fortunately, he's also still a marvelous writer, much imitated but never equaled. The Sinister Pig--his 16th novel to feature Navajo cops Joe Leaphorn and/or Jim Chee--isn't his best book, but it's still a pleasure from the first page to the last. Its plot is almost too complex to summarize, involving the mysterious shooting of an ex-CIA agent, financial shenanigans around oil-and-gas royalties, disappearing congressional interns, exotic pipeline technology, and the cross-border trade in both drugs and illegal aliens.
Officer Bernadette Manuelito has left the Navajo Tribal Police for the U.S. Customs Service, patrolling the barren borderlands of southern New Mexico. There, her curiosity and smarts land her in a growing peril that provides much of the book's suspense--and invokes the protective instincts of Sergeant Chee, who still hasn't quite been able to tell her how he feels about her. It's impossible not to care about Hillerman's exquisitely drawn repertory characters, nor to overlook the pleasures of his beautifully crafted and relaxed-seeming prose. In the midst of these virtues are a few warts: several sections are a little flat or awkward, and the villainous plutocrat behind it all is short on plausibility (though lots of fun to hate). But even a lesser Hillerman is still a richer, more satisfying read than most authors' top stuff. --Nicholas H. Allison
cckelly (USA: NY) (2007/06/10):
"RIVETING....THE PIG FLIES!" --People
"Sergeant Jim Chee of the Navajo Tribal Police is troubled by the nameless cropse discovered just inside his jurisdiction, at the edge of the Jicarilla Apache natural gas field. More troubling still is the FBI's insistence that the Bureau take over the case, calling the unidentified victim's death a "haunting accident."
But if a hunter is involved, Chee knows the prey was intentionally human. This belief is shared by the "Legendary Lieutenant" Joe Leaphorn, who once again is pulled out of retirement by the possibility of serious wrongs being committed against the Navajo nation by the Washington bureaucracy. Yet it is former polciewman Bernadette Manuelito, recently relocated to Customs Patrol at the U.S.-Mexico border, who possibly holds the key to a fiendishly twisted conspiracy of greed, lies, and murder -and whose only hope for survival now rests in the hands of friends too far away for comfort."
"Hillerman transcends the mystery genre." -- Washington Post Book World
"Hillerman blends a clever puzzle, a satisfying romance, and the exotic Navajo culture into a highly suspenseful and thoroughly entertaining whole." --San Diego Union-Tribune.