Book Review – “Coyote Waits” by Tony Hillerman

Coyote Waits  by Tony Hillerman  (Four Stars)

Hillerman does this one up pretty well in a long winded tribute to the cunning, evil and almost man-like attributes of Coyote who, “ always waits outside and is always hungry.”

The tale telling is well scripted in the part where old Pinto tells his tales of the Witches’ lair outside of the Ship Rock section of the reservation.  The tale pulls together well, showing how Coyote lays for even the most innocent of us through taking our own avarices to the extreme whether these be for drink, greed, money, power or even Sgt.Chee’s  embarrassment at being found out to have been negligent in assisting his partner.

The  convolutions of the tale twist like the ropey Pahoihoi lava cave in the outcropping where Butch Cassidy and his partners finally meet their end at the hands of pursuing Indians of the past century. Treasure awaits but so do the pitfalls of a rattlesnake infested witches’ caldron of lies and counter lies. Once again a has been CIA agent falls prey to his own cleverness to not tell the truth to the inquiring perceptive thoughts of Sgt. Chee. 

Love again creeps into the tale with the renewal of an old flame between Chee and the girl who went off to college and the simmering underground affair that seems to be working between Leaphorn and one of the professors who is helping with the case.  Will Leaphorn take the long awaited trip to China with his new found love?  What is the mysterious white painter on the cliffs trying to achieve with his lovelorn vandalism?

The section on familial and clan relationships is very interesting. It reminds one of the problems the ancients in the Bible got themselves into trying to marry or not marry between different clans. In oral tradition histories one can never be too sure, so best to marry from across the reservation with a clan that you aren’t related with at all, of course that marriage messes those relationships up for the offspring. There can only be so many permutations of this before it comes back around. Hopefully Hillerman will elucidate us on how many generations need to pass before your kids can marry back into the clan you or your wife is from.

The ending was a bit sloppy on corpses. Really, Tony the good Prof. should have smelled pretty high by the time he is found.  Don’t want to be  a spoiler here. So enuf is enuf.

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