cover image Coyote Waits

Coyote Waits

Tony Hillerman. HarperCollins Publishers, $19.95 (292pp) ISBN 978-0-06-016370-9

Plumbing more deeply than ever the Navajo culture of Tribal Police Lt. Joe Leaphorn and Officer Jim Chee, Hillerman ( Talking God ) weaves an understated, powerful tale from strands of ancient Navajo mythology, modern greed and ambition, and, above all, the sorrows and delights of his characters. Although Chee is badly burned in an attempt to rescue fellow officer Delbert Nez, who has been shot and left in his burning car, he blames himself for Nez's death. On medical leave and off the case, Chee tries to facilitate the prompt prosecution of elderly shaman Ashie Pinto, found near the murder site in a drunken stupor, the weapon in his hand still smoking. Leaphorn, too, becomes unofficially involved when he agrees to investigate the charges against Pinto on behalf of the latter's niece, a member of his dead wife Emma's clan. He and Chee follow parallel trails to the killing of a Vietnamese teacher and former ARVN officer, to a revision in the legend of Butch Cassidy and to the case's unexpected resolution. Central to the tale are two women, one Pinto's attorney; the other a cultural anthropologist who helps prize Leaphorn out of his continuing grief over Emma's death. Hillerman's spare and moving story eloquently illustrates Pinto's reminder to Leaphorn that Coyote, ``the enemy of all law, and rules, and harmony,'' waits for everyone. Reader's Digest Condensed Books. (July)