The Sinister Pig by Tony Hillerman
Tony Hillerman is a national treasure, having achieved critical acclaim, chart-topping popularity, and a sterling reputation as an ambassador between whites and Indians. Fortunately, he's also still a marvelous writer, much imitated but never equaled. The Sinister Pig--his 16th novel to feature Navajo cops Joe Leaphorn and/or Jim Chee--isn't his best book, but it's still a pleasure from the first page to the last. Its plot is almost too complex to summarize, involving the mysterious shooting of an ex-CIA agent, financial shenanigans around oil-and-gas royalties, disappearing congressional interns, exotic pipeline technology, and the cross-border trade in both drugs and illegal aliens.
Officer Bernadette Manuelito has left the Navajo Tribal Police for the U.S. Customs Service, patrolling the barren borderlands of southern New Mexico. There, her curiosity and smarts land her in a growing peril that provides much of the book's suspense--and invokes the protective instincts of Sergeant Chee, who still hasn't quite been able to tell her how he feels about her. It's impossible not to care about Hillerman's exquisitely drawn repertory characters, nor to overlook the pleasures of his beautifully crafted and relaxed-seeming prose. In the midst of these virtues are a few warts: several sections are a little flat or awkward, and the villainous plutocrat behind it all is short on plausibility (though lots of fun to hate). But even a lesser Hillerman is still a richer, more satisfying read than most authors' top stuff. --Nicholas H. Allison
2 of 2 people found the following review helpful:
The Pig Has No Clothes, October 1, 2003
Michael B. Scott
from Covington, LA United States
For years, Tony Hillerman has been giving us wonderful plots, intricate characters and breathtaking verbal landscapes. With "The Sinister Pig," unfortunately, it seems Mr. Hillerman is growing tired of his Leaphorn/Chee series. The plot of "The Sinister Pig," his latest in the series, is promising, but Hillerman seems to have lacked either the energy or the desire to flesh it out into what could have been a fantastic novel. Instead, what we get is a partially realized concept that clocks in at an anemic 240 pages. (And it's 240 heavily padded pages, at that, with blank pages between chapters, large type and heavy leading on the part of the typesetter. Let's face it: This is more a novella masquerading as a novel than the real thing.) The book is also rife with proofing errors, including more missing question marks than one can count and at least one instance in which he accidentally refers to Chee as Leaphorn in mid-scene. That, plus a far-from-satisfying closing, makes "The Sinister Pig" feel like a rush job, as if Hillerman was more interesting in finishing this project quickly than crafting a quality piece. Fans of Mr. Hillerman's work have come to expect much more, and they all know he's capable of top-notch fiction. Unfortunately, "The Sinister Pig" doesn't fit that category.