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Anne Hillerman returns with new novel

Author Anne Hillerman will be in Durango next week to talk about and sign copies of her new book, “Lost Birds.” (Courtesy of Anne Hillerman
Author will be At Maria’s Bookshop next week in Durango

In her eighth book, “Lost Birds,” Anne Hillerman continues her father’s legacy by keeping alive the beloved characters he created in 1971. Despite the original reluctance of the New York publishing world, the characters and setting of the Navajo Nation garnered worldwide popularity. Luckily for readers, Hillerman was persuaded to bring these beloved characters back to life, thus making the series her own. The series has garnered her awards and her books appear prominently on the New York Times bestseller lists.

As “Lost Birds” opens, retired lieutenant from the Navajo Tribal Police and now private eye Joe Leaphorn receives an early phone call. The call comes from the past, and just when Joe agrees to look for a missing wife, the call ends with the sound of a massive explosion. He is determined to find out what happened and whether his client, Cecil Bowlegs is still alive.

If you go

WHAT: Author event and book-signing: Anne Hillerman, “Lost Birds.”

WHEN: 6-8 p.m. May 9.

WHERE: Maria’s Bookshop, 960 Main Ave.

MORE INFORMATION: Visit https://tinyurl.com/2kc5sbkp.

Joe is already working a case involving an adoption that took place in 1977. Another client, Stella Brown, was adopted by an Anglo couple back when such things were allowed. In today’s world, Native American children are protected because each tribe can legally place children with relatives or clan members without external interference. Stella believes she is Navajo, or Diné, but all she has from her recently deceased mother, is an old photograph and a small silver and turquoise baby bracelet. Using the unique geographic formations in the photograph and the woven blanket wrapping up what seems to be a baby, Joe is on the trail.

Meanwhile, Bernadette “Bernie” Manuelito, a Navajo Police officer, is called to the scene of the aforementioned explosion. It seems the new building on the Eagle Roost School campus is sadly destroyed. She is sent to check it out because she recently received special training on dealing with explosives and their aftermath.

Bernie is dealing with a lot emotionally. She recently experienced a personal loss and was passed over for a promotion. Also her mother’s health and memory are worsening. While examining the area, Bernie makes a discovery that changes the focus of the investigation. Because of this, the FBI and New Mexico State Police are called to the reservation. As both Joe’s and Bernie’s investigations continue, they discover a tie between their two cases.


At home Joe’s housemate, Louisa Boubonette, a retired college professor, has big news. Her only child whom she hasn’t seen in more than five years is coming to visit. Her relationship with her son, Kory, is not the best, but Louisa has dreams of making it better. When the son arrives with a new wife and troubling news, Louisa’s dream is all but dead. Despite Joe’s overtures, he is unable to help ease the situation.

As Bernie continues her inquiries, her sister Darleen, falls off the wagon. This is just as Mrs. Darkwater, her mother’s neighbor, has to have surgery and won’t be able to help with Mama’s care. Bernie and Darleen were sharing care of their mother, but with Darleen returning to school and Bernie’s busy and demanding job, the major weight has fallen on Darleen. This extra stress has led to Darleen returning to her former drinking ways. Bernie and her husband, Jim Chee, will have to come up with a new solution.

As new evidence comes to light and multiple questions are answered, some lives will be forever changed. One thing will never change, and that is the strength and endurance of the Navajo/Diné people that are illustrated by the characters of Joe Leaphorn, Bernie Manuelito and Jim Chee.

Hillerman has woven together a fascinating story that highlights the rich culture of the Navajo/Diné people. Her knowledge of the reservation’s vast geography, towns and characteristics is spot on, and readers can be assured her descriptions are not only accurate but lyrical. Her treatment of the closeness and shared responsibilities of the Navajo/Diné families is reminiscent of many families from the past.

Leslie Doran is a retired teacher and freelance writer.