Spider Woman’s Daughter
I’ve been a big fan of Tony Hillerman’s mystery novels ever since I first discovered them 20-something years ago. My grandparents were living in Sante Fe at the time, and the whole family started reading the novels. I quickly devoured the whole series.
I was thus a little leery of reading “Spider Woman’s Daughter,” a continuation of the series by Hillerman’s daughter Anne. Later writers so rarely manage to live up to the standard set by the original author of an iconic series.
However, “Spider Woman’s Daughter” proves to be a happy exception to that rule. Anne Hillerman has her father’s knack for atmosphere, setting, and evoking a foreign yet familiar culture. As I am reading this entirely from the outside, as it were, I can’t speak with too much authority about the actual authenticity of the Hillermans’ depiction of Navajo culture, but it certainly *feels” authentic to someone who spends a lot of time reading about and studying other cultures.
This is probably a good time to dive into the issue of cultural appropriation, which I’m sure some people are going to raise. Is it okay for someone who is not Navajo to make a lot of money writing about Navajo characters and Navajo culture? Some might say “No,” but most of what I know about Navajo culture, and most of the positive feelings I have towards Navajo culture and Native Americans in general, come from reading these books. Translators serve an important purpose, and one could argue that what Tony Hillerman and now his daughter Anne are doing is acting as translators of a sort, bringing Navajo culture to the wider, English-speaking world.
Anyway, fans of the original novels are likely to enjoy “Spider Woman’s Daughter” as well. It is not, however, just a copy of Hillerman pere’s work; Anne Hillerman brings her own fresh voice to the series, focusing more on female cop Bernie Manuelito and the women’s side of Navajo culture. Certainly worth reading if you are already a fan, and also worth checking out if you want to read some mystery that’s a little bit different from a lot of the mainstream fare out there.