Review | Stargazer : Anne Hillerman

“Anne Hillerman’s taken familiar characters and locations and has struck out on a literary legacy all her own.”

~Craig Johnson, author of the Walt Longmire Mysteries ~

“Stargazer” is a must read for anyone who loves the notable Tony Hillerman novels. Anne Hillerman has written several novels prior to “Stargazer”. She has kept her father’s (Tony Hillerman’s) Navajo Police Officers, Jim Chee and Joe Leaphorn, as characters in her own novels. In addition, she has added a female officer, Bernadette Manuelito. In fact, Manuelito is the prime detective. Leaphorn plays a secondary role and Chee is almost non-existent. The story is told from a female voice, bringing Bernie (Bernadette) front and center. All three officers are facing decision points in their lives.

Starting a mystery with a voluntary confession of “guilty of murder” causes immediate suspicion that there must be more to the story. The confession is clearly to protect someone, but who and why are far from obvious.

Bernie is dealing with the murder of her college roommate’s husband – but that’s not all – she needs answers:

  • to the crime
  • to her relationship with her aging mother
  • to the future of her career and marriage

Maya, Bernie’s former roommate, has confessed to the murder of her estranged husband, a prominent astronomer. Her investigation leads to details that don”t align. For Bernie, the investigation also causes an unexpected rift with her husband and temporary boss, Jim Chee, who is sure she is headed for trouble.

Hillerman artfully weaves astronomical fact and knowledge, both past and present , into the mystery. She takes us to the VLA (Very Large Array), a real-life radio astronomy observatory located in central New Mexico on the beautiful mountain rimmed Plains of San Augustin. Radio astronomy is a subfield of astronomy that studies celestial objects and astronomical phenomena invisible to optical telescopes. One of VLA’s newest projects is listening to signals that could be communications from other life forms in our vast and complicated universe. The New Mexico outpost is part of the National Radio Astronomy Observatory, a facility of the National Science Foundation. An equally fascinating way to see the vast night skies is presented by the Navajo ancestors who made their observations with their eyes alone. In traditional Navajo families, young people learn about So’Dine’e, The Star People or constellations.

” Unlike western astronomy, traditional Navajo astronomy is highly spiritual in accordance with the world view where everything is considered living and sacred.”

– Sharing the skies: navajo astronomy – by Nancy C. Maryboy &David Begay

In the acknowledgements, Anne thanks her father, Tony, for bringing Joe Leaphorn to life. March 11, 2020, marked the fiftieth anniversary of her Dad’s first mystery, The Blessing Way. What a legacy!

Stargazer was my introduction to Anne Hillerman. Since it is the sixth book in the series, I’ll be spending some time in “Four Corners” catching up.

The final pages of the book are a glossary of “a few Navajo words”, including star terms in Navajo.

Ahe’ hee’ – “Thank you” – for reading this review

Published by Audrey Newhall

I am an avid reader and contributor to Penna Book Reviews

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