Weird things are happening on Special Investigator Ella Clah's Navajo reservation—to livestock and then, frighteningly, to people. The widening rift between the old and the new, between Navajo traditionalists and Navajo modernists, shows every sign of becoming explosive. Ella, with sympathies for—and aversions to—both camps, is caught as usual between them. Two murders, two kidnapings, a breakin at the health clinic, to say nothing of the bizarre treatment dealt out to certain prizewinning animals at the Agricultural Society show, have all intensified the difficulty of keeping the reservation’s peace. Not that Ella has ever had much peace herself. ``L.A. woman,'' her enemies persist in calling her, though her reservation roots go deep, and it's been a good long while since she wrote finis to her wanderings outside. Even her mother, the tribal elder, and her brother, the medicine man, sometimes behave as if they think she’s an outsider. But Ella can cope with all that. And she can cope with the cop on her staff who has no idea what being a cop entails, not to mention the two men in love with her with whom she's not in love. It's the mysterious, perhaps communitythreatening, activity going on at nearby LabKote, the giant anglo hospital supplier, that has her slightly off-balance. That, and being pregnant.
As always (Enemy Way, 1998, etc.), the Thurlos bring the reservation to life—perhaps even more convincingly than Tony Hillerman does. It's the Hillerman way with character complexity and his storytelling savvy that are missing here.