Title: The Dark Wind
Author: Tony Hillerman
Series: Joe Leaphorn/Jim Chee #5
Publisher: Harper Paperbacks
The typical Hillerman mystery involves Navajo culture; either an action meant to look Navajo or something which disturbs the Navajo Way of harmony with the universe.
There’s always conflict between the White people (men) who have strict rules and believe they know what’s best for everyone, especially the Native Americans. They are usually portrayed as arrogant buffoons who know absolutely nothing about the case or the people against whom the crime was committed.
Sometimes, there’s conflict between two Indian tribes, which is usually resolved by being respectful.
In The Dark Wind, Jim Chee is handed three cases, which all become entwined with a fourth. The fourth is a small plane crash right in front of Chee while he’s on stakeout waiting for the vandal of the windmill, part of a complicated political gesture by the BLM towards the Hopi Nation.
The plane crash is most decidedly not assigned to Chee, the white FBI, and his captain, make that clear. He is to stay away from it. So as he goes about his days driving long distances to chase down clues, he does his best to not get involved in the crash and what turns out to be missing cocaine worth about $15M.
It becomes obvious that the federal agents are up to no good and keep trying to set Chee up for the fall over the missing drugs. The brutality of these thugs made me wince as they tossed Chee’s small travel trailer he calls home and smack him around. At first, I thought they were just stupid, prejudiced white men. Later, it’s revealed that’s only part of their makeup.
While trying to identify a Navajo John Doe discovered by some Hopi men gathering sacred spruce for a ceremonial, Chee encounters the trading post’s owner, Jake West. West performs magic tricks, which Chee mulls over throughout the book, trying to solve how they’re done. This proves to be a crucial key to the solution of the missing drugs and the dead bodies which keep piling up.
What keeps me re-reading Hillerman’s mysteries (this is at least my second time through) is the use of Navajo culture and sensibilities to solve the crimes which are jurisdictionally complex. I read them to re-visit a part of my life in which I was surrounded by Native Americans of several nations, and maybe for a better understanding of my own life.
I also read them because they expose me to other ways of thinking, relating and solving problems. The Navajo Way is explained as keeping in harmony with the universe, and making course adjustments as necessary.