Review: The Fallen Man by Tony Hillerman

the-fallen-man by tony hillermanThe Fallen Man by Tony Hillerman

Series: Leaphorn and Chee #12

Genre: Mystery, Police Procedural

Setting: New Mexico & Colorado

Source: Ebook, purchased

Publishing Date: 1996

336 pages

Synopsis: Human bones lie on a ledge under the peak of Ship Rock mountain, the remains of a murder victim undisturbed for more than a decade. Three hundred miles across the Navajo reservation, a harmless old canyon guide is felled by a sniper’s bullet. Joe Leaphorn, recently retired from the Navajo Tribal Police, believes the shooter and the skeleton are somehow connected and recalls a chilling puzzle he was previously unable to solve. But Acting Lieutenant Jim Chee is too busy to take an interest in a dusty cold case … until the reborn violence of it hits much too close to home.

My thoughts

I’m loving reading (and in some cases rereading) these Hillerman books. Each time I start one of these books it’s like seeing and talking to an old friend again. I love both Leaphorn and Chee. They’re so different from each other, but also at a basic level very much the same. They both have a moral center that pervades all their actions. That doesn’t mean they’re never wrong or that they don’t make mistakes, but they try to do the right thing.

Chee has slowly become more self-confident as the books move forward and he learns from the things he does and from Leaphorn. He’s matured and is no longer so apt to jump into a situation without thinking. I always like a character who grows and changes as the series moves forward.

Leaphorn, on the other hand, has become older and sadder. His beloved wife has died and he has finally retired. At the beginning of this book he’s bored and finds himself roped into a 10-year-old case of a missing man. He investigated that missing person case at the time and didn’t find many clues to the man’s disappearance.

Now, however, bones of a man are discovered on a ledge on Ship Rock mountain. It looks like the missing man has been found. But so many questions remain–what was he doing on Ship Rock? Did he try to climb the mountain alone? If other climbers were with him, why did they leave him? Was he alive after the fall?

Follow the money

Of course, it looks like money is involved in this case. The man’s widow inherited the ranch he had just inherited. The man’s wealthy family wants that ranch back since there are mineral deposits on the ranch. They hire Leaphorn despite Leaphorn’s reluctance to investigate the man’s death. The widow just wants to live on the ranch and raise cattle.

Acting Lieutenant Chee (provisionally promoted after Leaphorn retires) is also investigating the case, but so far the death is ruled an accident. And Chee has other cases (cattle rustling, a shooting, gang problems) to investigate plus all the paperwork a lieutenant must complete. He doesn’t really like the job, but he’s trying to show his fiance, Janet Pete, that he’s responsible and ambitious–except he isn’t really very ambitious. Chee just doesn’t seem to date women who are very compatible with him!

I recommend this series if you like police procedurals, law officers trying their best to do the “right” thing, a good mystery without graphic violence, books taking place in the western United States, or if you just like to read…lol.

My Rating: B+

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