cover image Finding Moon

Finding Moon

Tony Hillerman. HarperCollins Publishers, $24 (319pp) ISBN 978-0-06-017772-0

Location figures powerfully in Hillerman's newest novel, but it isn't the Southwest of his Navajo mysteries (Sacred Clowns, etc.), nor is this a Joe Leaphorn story. In April 1975, Moon Mathias, managing editor of a small-town Colorado newspaper, begins a redemptive journey that takes him first to Manila and then across the South China Sea to Cambodia, just as Pol Pot and the Khmer Rouge begin their reign of terror. Moon's brother Ricky, owner of a helicopter transportation service based in Cambodia, has recently died in a jungle crash. Their mother receives word that Ricky's baby daughter is being smuggled out of Vietnam to the Philippines. After his mother has a heart attack in the Manila airport, Moon takes over her mission, but the child does not arrive. Finding and contacting Ricky's acquaintances, Moon fights time, political exigencies and his ignorance of his brother's life as he tries doggedly to locate his niece. The effort involves an appealing cast, including a wealthy Chinese man seeking his ancestors' bones, a Dutch woman searching for her missionary brother and Vietnamese refugees, who join Moon on a suspenseful, albeit not quite credible, journey to a series of villages along the Mekong River. In the end, as the title suggests, Moon finds more than he'd known was lost. Hillerman's mastery of setting and his compassionate, patient characterization are fully present in this tale, which is otherwise somewhat formulaic. 350,000 first printing; $300,000 ad/promo; HarperAudio. (Oct.)