Hunting Badger

(Critical Survey of Contemporary Fiction)

Fans of Tony Hillerman’s stories of the Navaho Tribal Policemen Lieutenant Joe Leaphorn (now retired and feeling a bit at loose ends) and Sergeant Jim Chee will find themselves very much at home in Hunting Badger, a mystery which uses Hillerman’s best materials—a southwestern setting, a fabric of native American culture, and the appealing pair of Leaphorn and Chee who this time are investigating a casino robbery in which the bandits seem to have disappeared into thin air.

As always, complications abound. In retirement, Leaphorn has no official capacity for confronting suspects, but he has a huge network of contacts from his years in active service and a need to be doing something useful, so when an old acquaintance tells him that the F.B.I. has bungled the casino robbery investigation and supplies Leaphorn with the names of some suspects, he cannot resist doing some unofficial poking around.

As for Jim Chee, his failed romance with Janet Pete has left him ready to look with new eyes at small, pretty Officer Bernadette Manuelito. But she seems to be involved with one of the suspects in the robbery, a policeman who may have been the inside plant who helped the robbers.

The key to the mystery lies in how the thieves managed to escape without a trace. That puzzle is unlocked with a hint from a piece of Native American folklore supplied by Leaphorn’s anthropologist lady friend , who tells the story of Badger, a Ute bandit who could escape so effortlessly that people said he could fly. Leaphorn and Chee discover what he really did, and of course what became of the casino thieves and some other evil-doers as well.