The Sinister Pig

(Critical Survey of Contemporary Fiction)

In The Sinister Pig, Tony Hillerman once again weaves an engrossing tale of the American Southwest, presenting familiar characters from his earlier mysteries. In contrast to previous stories of Navajo Tribal Police Joe Leaphorn, Jim Chee, and Bernadette Manuelito, however, Hillerman sets the majority of this story in southern Arizona and centers the focus on Bernadette Manuelito, who recently left her job as a Tribal Police Officer on the Navajo Reservation, and Jim Chee, her former boss and potential love interest.

Centering the tension of the book on more global problems than those explored in earlier novels, Hillerman creates an interesting and almost believable scenario in which a powerful Washington-based drug cartel of businessmen and members of Congress have devised a way to use abandoned natural gas lines to literally pipe drugs under the Mexican-American border, thus eliminating the need for human “mules” in the form of illegal Mexican immigrants.

Hillerman deftly twists the plot to make it at first appear that the real “crime” focuses on the billions of dollars owed Native American tribes for unpaid royalties from natural gas and oil produced from leased wells on tribal lands. As the suspense builds, readers discover that the cartel’s intention has much wider ranging consequences: most specifically maintaining and increasing the importation of drugs into the United States.

While The Sinister Pig departs somewhat in tone and focus from Hillerman’s earlier Southwestern novels, it nevertheless provides an imaginative plot, swift action, and plenty of twists that should surprise even the most careful mystery reader.