Review: Song of the Lion by Anne Hillerman

Title: Song of the Lion by Anne Hillerman
Leaphorn, Chee & Manuelito Series Book 21
Publisher: Harper
Genre: Contemporary, Mystery, Suspense
Length: 304 pages
Book Rating: B

Complimentary Review Copy Provided by Publisher Through Edelweiss


A deadly bombing takes Navajo Tribal cops Bernadette Manuelito, Jim Chee, and their mentor, the legendary Lieutenant Joe Leaphorn, back into the past to find a vengeful killer in this riveting Southwestern mystery from the bestselling author of Spider Woman’s Daughter and Rock with Wings.

When a car bomb kills a young man in the Shiprock High School parking lot, Officer Bernadette Manuelito discovers that the intended victim was a mediator for a multi-million-dollar development planned at the Grand Canyon.

But what seems like an act of ecoterrorism turns out to be something far more nefarious and complex. Piecing together the clues, Bernadette and her husband, Sergeant Jim Chee, uncover a scheme to disrupt the negotiations and inflame tensions between the Hopi and Dine tribes.

Retired Lieutenant Joe Leaphorn has seen just about everything in his long career. As the tribal police’s investigation unfolds, he begins to suspect that the bombing may be linked to a cold case he handled years ago. As he, Bernadette, and Chee carefully pull away the layers behind the crime, they make a disturbing discovery: a meticulous and very patient killer with a long-simmering plan of revenge.

Writing with a clarity and grace that is all her own, Anne Hillerman depicts the beauty and mystery of Navajo Country and the rituals, myths, and customs of its people in a mystery that builds on and complements the beloved, bestselling mysteries of her acclaimed father, Tony Hillerman.


Song of the Lion by Anne Hillerman is an absolutely riveting mystery about a car bombing during an alumni basketball at Shiprock High School. Although this latest release is the twenty-first installment in the Leaphorn, Chee & Manuelito series, it can easily be read as a standalone.

Navajo Tribal Police Officer Bernadette “Bernie” Manuelito is off duty at the basketball game when she hears an explosion that sounds close by. Rushing to the parking lot, she discovers one of the vehicles has exploded and she quickly takes charge of the situation.  After discovering the owner of the car is Aza Palmer, a lawyer who is mediating a proposal for a controversial  resort that will be built on the Navajo Reservation, Bernie’s husband, Sergeant Jim Chee is assigned to guard Aza during an upcoming forum. When the identity of the man who was killed at the bomb site is discovered, Bernie hopes retired Lieutenant  Joe Leaphorn might help fill in the blanks about the deceased man’s past.  With tensions running high between protestors who are hoping to kill the resort project, will Jim and Bernie figure out who wants to kill Aza before it is too late?

Although the bombing case is quickly turned over the a variety of federal agencies, Bernie continues trying to understand the connection between the deceased, Richard Horseman, and Aza Palmer.  Both men grew up on the reservation, but their lives took dramatically different turns.  Aza is a very successful lawyer based in Arizona and this is not the first time he has worked as a mediator. Richard, on the other hand, has a bit of a checkered past which includes brushes with the law and an alcohol problem. According to his grandmother, Marie Nez, her grandson has left his problems behind and has been diligently working on steering clear of trouble. If Mrs. Nez’s assertions are true, then Bernie wants to know why he was near Aza’s car the night of the explosion.  Could the reason be completely innocent?

Meanwhile, Jim has his hands full trying to protect Aza.  The biggest threat to the lawyer at this point is his stubborn refusal to heed Jim’s pleas to maintain a low profile and stop going off on his own.  Jim is also rather troubled when a young man keeps appearing on the scene and his questions to Aza about the man’s identity go unanswered.  As the protestors  step up their efforts  to sabotage the public discussion, Jim is grateful for the extra help when Bernie unexpectedly decides to spend her days off with him. But even with the both of them keeping an eye on Aza, can they keep him out of harm’s way?

Despite the injuries that still plague Joe Leaphorn, he is still a vital resource with a formidable amount of information from his years on the police force.  Bernie hopes Joe will be able to provide background information about Richard’s past and her patience pays off once he begins searching through old records. Does Joe hold the key which will break the case wide open?

Song of the Lion is a fast-paced and intriguing police procedural that is quite compelling.  Anne Hillerman does an outstanding job providing readers with fascinating information about Native American culture.  The investigation moves along at a brisk pace and there are several unexpected twists and turns that will keep readers invested in the resolution of the case. Although the identity of the perpetrator is rather easy to surmise, the novel comes to an action-packed and rather dramatic conclusion. Old and new fans of the Leaphorn, Chee & Manuelito series will be absolutely delighted with this latest outing which features a topical storyline and a fascinating mystery.

1 Comment

Filed under Anne Hillerman, Chee & Manuelito Series, Contemporary, Harper, Mystery, Rated B, Review, Song of the Lion, Suspense

One Response to Review: Song of the Lion by Anne Hillerman

  1. Timitra

    Thanks for the review Kathy