Joe White's Reviews > Listening Woman

Listening Woman by Tony Hillerman
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M_50x66
's review
Jun 16, 11

bookshelves: fiction, on-shelf
Read from June 15 to 16, 2011 — I own a copy

6 stars. This was a very early Tony Hillerman work. In it, Joe Leaphorn is very young in comparison to the many later books by Hillerman. Some of the distinguishing features in this book versus his later novels, include the fact that Leaphorn is much more of an action figure, and the general plot includes physical action sequences such as a high speed chase and a life threatening struggle on foot which included scaling cliffs, surviving a brushfire, a direct confrontation with a trained killer dog, and a huge cave exploration sequence under duress that included dynamite explosions and gunfire.

All the action might sound more like a Clive Cussler created Dirk Pitt action sequence, except that here, the plot is believable and is very well intermixed with the building of the mystery and the development of the opponent characters. There is a mystery, of which the criminal element characters and twisting plot sequences equal any of the best from Conan Doyle's Sherlock stories. And the mystery is revealed in stages with the final solution coming simultaneously with the wrapping of the action climax.

It seemed unusual for a Hillerman novel to have as many individual characters contributing new dimensions and twists. I may not remember correctly but in his later books, there was usually only a single opponent acting individually or in conjunction with one or two others as opposed to this book where a very clever and well organized group represented the criminal element, and several intermediary characters were consulted for background fact building. The increasingly complex relationships among the criminal element contributed to the suspense buildup.

The book included the trademark Hillerman descriptions of the desert beauty and its individual features which stimulate the senses such as smell, taste, heat, desert sounds, and colors. The use of night, and several settings dependent on light or total darkness, and the attention to light qualities at sunrise and sunset build a rich texture of settings. Navajo ceremonies, character attitudes and behaviors, and the inclusion of ritual beliefs all contributed to the trademark Hillerman style of revelation of a mystery wrapped into a context of evil fitting into normal lives. This was all revealed from the standpoint of Lt. Joe Leaphorn, who here isn't burdened by years of experience, relationships, or the distraction of being in command of and providing guidance to younger subordinates.
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