The tension between the Navajo way-of-life and the tempting white-world outside--always an element in Hillerman's somber outings for Jim Chee of the Navajo Tribal Police--is central and emphatic in this haunting, absorbing investigation. Throughout the novel, Jim broods (sometimes too ponderously) on his relationship with non-Navajo teacher Mary Landon, who has been pressuring him to take a job outside the reservation. But, more effectively, the crime-puzzles here relentlessly circle around the issue of Navajo identity. Albert Gorman, a Navajo who moved to L.A. and became a car-thief, returns to the reservation, apparently looking for his brother Leroy--and is wounded in a shootout with a pursuing L.A. hitman. Soon thereafter, Albert's body is found--ceremonially laid out--near the hogan of his grandfather, Hosteen Begay. But where is Hosteen Begay now? Where is brother Leroy? And where is young Margaret Billy Sosi, another of Hosteen Begay's grandchildren, who has disappeared from her Navajo school? To answer these questions, Jim makes a rare trip outside the reservation--to LA., where he learns that the Gorman brothers were involved with a powerful local gang, that Leroy had agreed to testify against the gang-leaders, becoming a federally protected witness. He finds Margaret Billy Sosi, then loses her again (after she saves him from a gang assassin); he has touching encounters with an elderly friend of the late Albert Gorman, with some of the few Navajos living in L.A. And finally, after returning home and finding the body of Hosteen Begay, Jim brings all the clues and themes together in a strong final twist--one that also helps him to accept a gentle compromise from Mary Landon. Despite pockets of excess sentimentality: one of Hillerman's best Navajo mysteries--keeping suspense, Indian lore, and character in stately yet compelling balance.