Monday, October 14, 2013

"Spider Woman's Daughter"

Anne Hillerman's debut novel, Spider Woman's Daughter, is a mystery set in the Southwest, including the Navajo Nation and Santa Fe. The book follows the further adventures of the characters Tony Hillerman made famous: Jim Chee, Joe Leaphorn and Bernadette Manuelito. Anne Hillerman also is the author of the award-winning Tony Hillerman's Landscape: On the Road with Chee and Leaphorn and eight other books.

She applied the Page 69 Test to Spider Woman's Daughter and reported the following:
My page sixty nine comes at the end of chapter five. It's short. Here's what it says:
After an hour, she quietly crept out of bed and went back to the kitchen to work on the files. By dawn, she had reviewed them all, made lists of possible suspects and their connections to Leaphorn. None of the criminals in the old cases except for Delos looked especially evil, especially motivated to shoot a man in cold blood. In fact, they all should be grateful to Leaphorn for attempting to reboot their lives.

She put on her Nikes when the sky began to change from black to gray and quietly opened the front door. She ran to greet the dawn.

When she came back, she smelled the sizzling bacon. She saw Chee, phone in one hand, spatula in the other. She could tell from the tension in his body that whatever news he listened to wasn't welcome.
Actually, and to my surprise, this excerpt does a good job of representing two important aspects of the book. The "she" is Bernadette Manuelito, affectionately known as Bernie. The excerpt shows her obsession with solving the crime, and her need to weave together the threads of clues to create a solid fabric of evidence to find the villain. The name of the mystery, Spider Woman's Daughter, refers to one of the Dine` Holy People, Spider Woman, the divinity who taught the Navajo how to weave. She also gave the Hero Twins important magic tools which ultimately helped them make the world safer for The People. At one point in the story, someone praises Manuelito for her ability to make connections, to wrap up loose ends. He calls her "Spider Woman's daughter."

This excerpt also illustrates the way I have allowed the relationship between two of the central characters my father created to evolve into something new, something more intimate, more domestic, more an equal partnership rather than the love-struck boyfriend (Chee) and the girlfriend who idolized him (Bernie).

What the excerpt lacks, however, is dead bodies, the growing threat posed by the villain, the tension that arises from false leads and learning logical suspects didn't do it, the excitement that builds as the stakes grow higher, and the on-going conflict that sustains the story.
Learn more about the book and author at Anne Hillerman's website.

My Book, The Movie: Spider Woman's Daughter.

--Marshal Zeringue