A troubled teen’s claims about the eponymous cave lead tribal officers through a search of the remote regions of the Navajo Nation.
The goal of the Wings and Roots program is to help empower at-risk girls, program director Rose Cooper explains to Tribal Police Officer Bernadette Manuelito as she preps the latter for her upcoming talk to the group. Never much of a public speaker, Bernadette is dreading her presentation. Not to worry: when the time comes, she’s relieved of her painful duty in order to fulfill more traditional police responsibilities during her visit to the program. Troubled young Annie Rainsong has disappeared on a solo vision quest, and dedicated Wings and Roots staff member Domingo Cruz is searching for her. When Annie shows up, she’s visibly shaken by something she saw while hiking through the lava fields, and she’s notably without Dom. Given Annie’s frequent overdramatizing, her story of finding a cave with human bones is hard for some of the staff to swallow. Her credibility is further diminished when she lapses into what seems to be a drug-induced state. Bernadette has to investigate Annie’s claims about the bones and figure out what’s happened to Dom without the help of her husband and fellow officer, Jim Chee, who’s on a mission of his own. While checking in on Bernadette’s sister, Darleen, at the Institute of American Indian Arts, Chee finds a mysterious bruise on Darleen’s arm, and she’s cagey when he confronts her. Certain that Bernadette won’t be satisfied with no explanation, Chee feels obliged to stick around until he can ensure the safety of Darleen, who’s been hanging with a crowd that’s been on Chee’s bad side before.
As Hillerman continues her father’s legacy through his beloved characters (Song of the Lions, 2017, etc.), she’s gradually and gratifyingly finding her own voice.