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, cover it with secrecy, and call it a hunting accident? What was the victim seeking among the maze of pipelines and pumping stations in America's largest gas field? Was he investigating the embezzlement of billions of dollars from the Indian Tribal royalty trust in the Department of the Interior?
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? Did Bernie, once a member of Chee's squad but now a rookie Border Patrol Officer, put herself in terrible danger?
Tony Hillerman leads his readers through another of his intricate plots to the solution of this crime, with a cast of vivid characters: a Washington political mogul and his more-or-less renegade pilot; a customs official who bends the rules; a Mexican smuggler with a conscience; and, finally, "Legendary Lieutenant" Joe Leaphorn, 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 Tuttle Ranch.
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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. AllisonAbout the Author:
Tony Hillerman is past president of Mystery Writers of America and has received their Edgar and Grand Master Awards. His other honors include the Center for the American Indian's Ambassador Award, the Silver Spur Award for the best novel set in the West, the Navajo Tribe's Special FriEND
Award, the National Media Award from the American Anthropological Association, the Public Service Award from the U.S. Department of the Interior, the Nero Wolfe Award, the Lifetime Achievement Award from the Oklahoma Center for the Book, an honorary life membership in the Western Literature Association, and the Grand Prix de Littérature Policiére. In addition to his election to Phi Beta Kappa, Tony Hillerman has been named Doctor of Humane Letters at Arizona State University and at Oregon's Portland State University. He lives with his wife, Marie, in Albuquerque, New Mexico.
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