Review: Cave of Bones by Anne Hillerman

Title: Cave of Bones by Anne Hillerman
Leaphorn, Chee & Manuelito Series Book 22
Publisher: Harper
Genre: Contemporary, Mystery, Suspense
Length: 320 pages
Book Rating: B

Complimentary Review Copy Provided by Publisher Through Edelweiss


New York Times bestselling author Anne Hillerman brings together modern mystery, Navajo traditions, and the evocative landscape of the desert Southwest in this intriguing entry in the Leaphorn, Chee, and Manuelito series.

When Tribal Police Officer Bernadette Manuelito arrives to speak at an outdoor character-building program for at-risk teens, she discovers chaos. Annie, a young participant on a solo experience due back hours before, has just returned and is traumatized. Gently questioning the girl, Bernie learns that Annie stumbled upon a human skeleton on her trek. While everyone is relieved that Annie is back, they’re concerned about a beloved instructor who went out into the wilds of the rugged lava wilderness bordering Ramah Navajo Reservation to find the missing girl. The instructor vanished somewhere in the volcanic landscape known as El Malpais. In Navajo lore, the lava caves and tubes are believed to be the solidified blood of a terrible monster killed by superhuman twin warriors.

Solving the twin mysteries will expose Bernie to the chilling face of human evil. The instructor’s disappearance mirrors a long-ago search that may be connected to a case in which the legendary Joe Leaphorn played a crucial role. But before Bernie can find the truth, an unexpected blizzard, a suspicious accidental drowning, and the arrival of a new FBI agent complicate the investigation.

While Bernie searches for answers in her case, her husband, Sergeant Jim Chee juggles trouble closer to home. A vengeful man he sent to prison for domestic violence is back—and involved with Bernie’s sister Darleen. Their relationship creates a dilemma that puts Chee in uncomfortable emotional territory that challenges him as family man, a police officer, and as a one-time medicine man in training.

Anne Hillerman takes us deep into the heart of the deserts, mountains, and forests of New Mexico and once again explores the lore and rituals of Navajo culture in this gripping entry in her atmospheric crime series.


Cave of Bones by Anne Hillerman is a perplexing mystery with several cases to solve. This 22nd installment in the Leaphorn, Chee & Manuelito series can easily be read as a standalone.

Tribal police officer Bernadette “Bernie” Manuelito is only supposed to be giving a talk to the participants of the Wings and Roots program. However, she quickly becomes embroiled in a case in which teenager Annie Rainsong goes missing and staff member Domingo “Dom” Cruz who is searching for her, has also disappeared. Annie eventually returns unharmed but Dom is nowhere to be found.  Since Annie is prone to exaggerating, no one but Bernie believes her claims that she found bones in the cave she took refuge in overnight.  Bernie is soon swept up in several seeming disparate investigations involving the Wings and Roots program, Dom’s search and rescue and possible grave robbing of Native American artifacts.

Bernie’s husband, Sergeant Jim Chee, is in Santa Fe for training and he grows concerned for his sister-in-law Darleen who is attending  a class at the Institute of American Indian Arts. He is worried that she might be in trouble with her boyfriend Clayton “CS” Secody whose furtive actions make Jim suspicious. Equally dismaying is the discovery that CS is involved with Clyde Herbert, a felon that Jim put behind bars.  Jim is afraid Darleen is in over her head since she is unwilling to discuss what is going on with her, CS and Herbert.

Both Bernie and Jim turn to Lt. Joe Leaphorn for background on some of the principals they encounter on their respective investigations. Although Joe still has a few memory issues from being shot, he remains sharp as a tack.  He augments his  recollections with some research that turns up some very unexpected revelations.

Cave of Bones is a mesmerizing police procedural that takes a few startling twists and turns. The cases are quite interesting and in addition to a wily group of suspects, Bernie must also battle the elements in her quest for answers.  Anne Hillerman’s descriptive prose brings the New Mexico landscape and Native American culture vividly to life.   The novel comes to a satisfying conclusion that neatly wraps all of the story arcs. This latest addition to the Leaphorn, Chee & Manuelito series is sure to be hit with fans of the genre.

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Filed under Anne Hillerman, Cave of Bones, Contemporary, Harper, Leaphorn Chee & Manuelito Series, Mystery, Rated B, Review, Suspense

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