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Shapeshifter by Tony Hillerman (Three Stars)
This is a slow moving, but well written tale from the Navajo Reservation once again immersed in Hillerman’s own detail oriented world of Officer (now-retired)Lt. Leaphorn and his protégé and sometimes competitor Sgt. Chee.
In almost laconic fashion the author lays out his plot of the shape-shifting ex-CIA monster who has a bone to pick with three accomplices who are just getting out of prison, having served time for the CIA man’s plot. Perhaps they will rat on him, perhaps they will recognize him for what he is, a changeling who has once again assumed a new identity in order to work his criminal wiles on the unsuspecting Navajo population to do them out of an antique Shape-shifter rug.
With a bottle of special-forces maraschino cherries laced with quick acting cyanide or other chemical our villain blithely tops off his Vietnamese cook’s cake decorations for those who seem to be getting too close to the truth. Leaphorn narrowly escapes in his own slow moving bumbling but clever ways as he innocently follows a lead to our man in an investigation of stolen buckets of Pinion Pine sap from granny’s house. Fortunately he doesn’t like fruitcake!>)
Chee stumbles through a nearly squelched engagement to help Leaphorn and the cook hunt down the monster in the hills bordering N. Mexico and Arizona. The ending although justified, shows how it’s probably best that old Leaphorn has decided to retire. Tampering with and concealing evidence anyone? Hmm, alls well that ends well unless they find the hidden body. Of course for Hillerman that’s always food for one more novel. Not as much of the Navajo lore in this one as I like.
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