Friday, June 9, 2023

Book Review: "THE WAY OF THE BEAR" Takes the Readers Deep into Greed and Murder

THE WAY OF THE BEAR – (A Leaphorn, Chee & Manuelito Novel #8)

AUTHOR: Anne Hillerman
ISBN: 978-0-06-290839-1; hardcover (April 25, 2023)
286pp, B&W, $30.00 U.S., $37.50 CAN

The Way of the Bear: A Leaphorn, Chee & Manuelito Novel is a 2023 hardcover original novel from author Anne Hillerman.  It is the eighth novel in her “Leaphorn, Chee & Manuelito” book series, which began with Spider Woman's Daughter (2013).

This series is a continuation of the “Joe Leaphorn and Jim Chee Series” written by Hillerman's late father, bestselling author, Tony Hillerman (1925-2008).  The father's novels are the basis for “Dark Winds,” a television series from the cable network, AMC, and its streaming service, AMC+.  In The Way of the Bear, Chee and Manuelito find themselves caught up in a case that involves fossil harvesting, greed, rejected love, and murder.

The Way of the Bear opens in December.  Navajo Nation Police Officer Bernadette “Bernie” Manuelito and her husband, Sgt. Jim Chee, have traveled to San Juan County, Utah to the place known as “the Valley of the Gods,” near the Bears Ears National Monument.  Chee is on assignment for the Navajo Nation Police Department, and his job is to convince Dr. Chapman “Chap” Dulles, a wealthy fossil hunter and paleontologist., to donate money to a fallen Navajo police officers fund.

Bernie has gone along on the trip and uses the time to visit Bears Ears for relaxation, contemplation, and exploration.  This has been a difficult time in her life for both personal and professional reasons.  While there, she has a terrifying encounter involving a pickup truck that tries to run her down.  One of the truck's passengers even shoots at her.  And after that, Bernie helps a young couple deliver their baby in the middle of the night.

However, an unexpected death on a lonely road outside of Bears Ears for raises questions for Bernie and Chee.  They didn't plan on being involved in a murder, but they also wonder why a seasoned outdoorsman and well-known paleontologist freezes to death within walking distance of his car?  A second death, and apparent murder, brings more turmoil and mystery. Who is the unidentified man killed during a home invasion where nothing much seems to have been taken? Why was he murdered?

The Bears Ears area, at the edge of the Navajo Nation, is celebrated for its abundance of early human habitation sites and for the discovery of unique and revolutionary fossils.  Instead of being able to appreciate all this, Bernie and Chee are faced with an unprecedented level of violence that sweeps them both into danger.

THE LOWDOWN:  I have been crazy about Anne Hillerman's work since I first read Spider Woman's Daughter.  I had read two of her late father, Tony Hillerman's novels a long time ago, so I requested a review copy of Spider Woman's Daughter from HarperCollins when it was offered to reviewers back in 2013.  It was a fortuitous decision, as the “Manuelito, Chee & Leaphorn” series became one of my favorite modern literary series.

When I read the previous novel in the series, 2022's The Sacred Bridge, I didn't know if I should call it a turning point in the series, but the story did suggest that big changes were ahead for both Bernie and Chee.  Joe Leaphorn did not appear in The Sacred Bridge, nor does he appear in The Way of the Bear, except indirectly, and Hillerman continues to hint at big changes for him.

Like The Sacred Bridge, The Way of the Bear is a solid crime thriller, and at times, a riveting suspense thriller.  In this new novel, Bernie and Chee's lives are constantly under threat – sometimes in unexpected ways.  There is level of danger, menace, and peril that I don't remember encountering in earlier novels.  However, the entries in this series always seem to be moving the characters forward.  Nothing is stale, and the lives of Bernie and Chee are ongoing and evolving.  Even with the danger this story imposes on them, the narrative also gives us a deeper look into them.

As I have done with the previous books, I am heartily recommending The Way of the Bear.  The more I read, the more I learn about Bernie and Chee, and the more attached to them that I become.  As always, I am sad about reaching the end of the story, doubly so this time because it was just a year ago that I read The Sacred Bridge.  The best recommendation that I can give The Way of the Bear is to tell you, dear readers, that I would like to read another book in the series right now.

I READS YOU RECOMMENDS:   Fans of Anne Hillerman and of her late father, Tony Hillerman, will want to read The Way of the Bear.


Reviewed by Leroy Douresseaux a.k.a. "I Reads You"

The text is copyright © 2023 Leroy Douresseaux. All Rights Reserved.  Contact this blog or site for reprint and syndication rights and fees.


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