A 1001 MIDNIGHTS Review by Marcia Muller:


TONY HILLERMAN Listening Woman

TONY HILLERMAN – Listening Woman. Harper & Row, hardcover, 1978. Paperback reprint: Avon, April 1979. Many other reprint editions, both hardcover and soft.

   Joe Leaphorn is assigned to a double homicide that has occurred on a remote plateau of the Navajo reservation. Hosteen Tso, an old man, had complained of illness and gone to Margaret Cigaret, known as Listening Woman, for a pollen-blessing ceremony. During a brief period when Listening Woman left him alone, both Hosteen Tso and her niece and assistant, Anna Atcitty, were bludgeoned to death.

   The old man, Listening Woman reports to Leaphorn, knew something about some sand paintings that had been desecrated, but refused to discuss it, saying cryptically that he had made a promise to someone long ago. Following this rather slender lead, Leaphorn travels across the barren mesas to that part of the Indian nation where the Navajo wolves and witches are said to dwell.

   As in Hillerman’s other novels, ancient tribal beliefs come into sharp conflict with the modern world a conflict that is reflected in Leaphorn himself. And when he finally reaches the solution to the crimes, he sees how legend can be manipulated to suit the designs of evil men.

TONY HILLERMAN Listening Woman

   Hillerman has put his knowledge of Navajo custom and mysticism to good use in this novel. His stark depiction of the New Mexico landscape is particularly fine, conveying a haunting sense of how insignificant one man is against the vastness of nature, and making this a compelling and often chilling book.

   Joe Leaphorn also appears in The Blessing Way (1970), Hillerman’s first novel. A nonseries novel, The Fly on the Wall (1971), is a political story set in the capital of an unnamed midwestern state. In addition, Hillerman has produced a juvenile novel and various works of nonfiction, including the hilarious The Great Taos Bank Robbery and Other Affairs of Indian Country (1970).

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   Reprinted with permission from 1001 Midnights, edited by Bill Pronzini & Marcia Muller and published by The Battered Silicon Dispatch Box, 2007.   Copyright 1986, 2007 by the Pronzini-Muller Family Trust.