cover image Death Walker: An Ella Clah Novel

Death Walker: An Ella Clah Novel

Aimee Thurlo. Forge, $23.95 (0pp) ISBN 978-0-312-85651-9

The Thurlos introduced Ella Clah, former FBI agent who is now a special investigator for the Navajo tribal police at Shiprock in what is recognizably Tony Hillerman territory in Blackening Song. Like Joe Leaphorn and Jim Chee, Clah makes use of both her law enforcement training and her understanding of tribal traditions to investigate crime on the Navajo Reservation. When an elderly Navajo historian is murdered, Clah must separate fact from rumor and myth to find the culprit. Reservation gossip and artifacts at the crime scene point to the skinwalkers witch cult, villains of Blackening Song. Ella Clah is a tough, appealing heroine, who faces personal conflict between professional duty and pride in her heritage. But she's ill served by this loose plot, in which she and her assistant, Justine Goodluck, engage in repetitive interview scenes that slow the pace and blunt the suspense. Two more tribal Elders, specialists in ritual and the Navajo language, die before the investigators get on the right track-more than halfway through the book. Then everything quickly falls into place, and the tale ends with an anticlimactic final chase. Readers may wish that Chee or Leaphorn were around to step in when necessary and set this sidelined plot on a faster course. (June)