The Ghostway by Tony Hillerman
My rating: 4 of 5 stars
Jacket Blurb: Old Joseph Joe sees it
all. Two strangers spill blood at the Shiprock Wash-O-Mat. One dies. The
other drives off into the dry lands of the Big Reservation, but not
before he shows the old Navajo a photo of the man he seeks.
is all Tribal Policeman Jim Chee needs to set him off on an odyssey that
moves from a trapped ghost in an Indian hogan to the seedy underbelly
of L.A. to an ancient healing ceremony where death is the cure, and into
the dark heart of murder and revenge.
Read as an audio book.
I really enjoyed this installment. These books just flow for me - they aren't action packed, there aren't high speed car chases, there aren't any gun battles with glass exploding everywhere, there aren't any huge explosions hurling cars and people topsy-turvy. These are thoughtful "thinking" mysteries, where our protagonist, Jim Chee, has to reason out what happened, why it happened, and who might have done it.
In The Ghostway, Chee is struggling with Mary Landon, his girlfriend, after she expressed disappointment that he didn't apply for a position with the FBI and a possible relocation off the reservation. Which called into question his expectations of the relationship; if he hands in the FBI application, he walks the path of the white man. If he doesn't hand in the FBI application, he continues his studies to become a Navajo Singer and stays a Navajo - but without Mary.
Meanwhile, an elderly Navajo witnesses the murder of Albert Gorman, and the death is linked to an FBI investigation stemming from Los Angeles. Chee is asked to help in the investigation, which leads to a missing girl and her missing Grandfather. The search for both lead the reader through an exploration of white culture as seen through the eyes of a Navajo - specifically, Chee's eyes as he struggles to decide to stay Navajo or become white.
I thoroughly enjoyed the Navajo concept of the Ghostway and death rituals: how a hogon is abandoned upon the death of a person because the chindi is trapped inside, the burial rituals of a Navajo, and the Ghostway cleansing ritual to rid a person of the Ghost Sickness. All of this was so well interwoven into the story that it was a pleasure to read. I thought it added so much to Chee's dilemma about which path he should walk.
My only tiny complaint with the book was all the driving, and, upon reflection, perhaps even that contributes to the over all feel of how large and remote the southwest is. Still, a bit too much car time for the main character. But, my quirk.
So far, I highly recommend this series.
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