WHITE SHELL WOMAN: A Charlie Moon Mystery
Early in Doss's seventh book (after 2001's Grandmother Spider) about former Ute policeman turned cattle rancher Charlie Moon, Charlie's old Aunt Daisy—a tribal shaman and all-around tough cookie—is being bored to tears by an equally elderly Navajo man who recounts a long story about the origins of two Southern Colorado landmarks, Chimney Rock and Companion Rock. "Daisy was familiar with the myths. The tales varied, depending on whether a Zuni, Hopi, Apache, or Navajo was doing the telling... Daisy groaned inwardly. Like most old men, this one liked to tell stories she had no particular interest in hearing." Sadly, many readers will be forced to agree with Daisy: despite Doss's deep knowledge of the environment and of Native American patterns of speech and thought, this may be one book too many about clashes between ancient and modern customs leading to loss of life. We've tramped over this ground before—with Doss himself, with Tony Hillerman, with Margaret Coel and all the other literary anthropologists who created this new genre. Moon is still as tall and as charming to women as ever; his aunt's crusty exterior still covers genuine affection and a shrewd mind; but this tale of Anasazi ruins, of feuding academics, of grave robbery and murders to cover it up, carries a mythic familiarity that's hard to shake off—or make interesting. (Jan. 1)
Forecast:With Grandmother Spider, one of the weaker titles in the series, Doss's net sales went up 50%—which suggests the mystery public's appetite for Native-American sleuths is far from sated. That Doss takes a light approach helps set him apart from the pack.