Saturday, November 9, 2013


by Brian Kimberling
Pantheon, 2013. 210 pgs. Fiction

Nathan Lochmueller has a degree in philosophy and no job, until he lucks into one as a bird researcher. He has to be in the field at 5:00 a.m. every day, plotting and triangulating the locations of birds' nests, naming the birds he feels friendly towards, tromping through thistle and swampland, in Southeastern Indiana. Nathan is in love with the lovely Lola, who likes him but is constitutionally predisposed to flit from guy to guy. He is also beset in the woods and out with a wide array of "characters":  his Uncle Dart and Aunt Loretta, briefly resituated from Texas but driven back home by the neighbors who thought they were Klansmen, and by the Klansmen who thought they should be neighbors; the crazed fisherman who was outdueled for a catfish by a bald eagle; his childhood friend Shane who took a break from working on his degree  to smoke banana peel using a recipe from The Anarchist's Cookbook. (My favorite quote:  "Shane was pursuing a degree in library science.  He hated it.  He wanted to work with books but was compelled instead to study 'information
 architecture' . . . .  'One of the professors called the phone book a database with limited search functionality . . . . That's when I decided to take a break'." Snapper is laugh out loud funny which I know because it made me laugh out loud. It is also tender and snarky, a story by and about a man who is annoyed to death by "his people," and place, and who loves them dearly as well.


Thursday, November 7, 2013

Spider Woman's Daughter

Spider Woman's Daughter: A Leaphorn and Chee Novel
by Anne Hillerman
HarperCollins, 2013. 301 pgs. Mystery

The late, great Tony Hillerman's fans will be delighted by his daughter's addition to the Jim Chee/Joe Leaphorn Navajo mystery series. Not only does Anne have her father's love (and eye) for the desert Southwest and its original inhabitants, but she tells a good story, as well. In this volume, Jim Chee's wife Bernie is among a group of fellow officers having breakfast with Joe Leaphorn on a hot summer day. When he leaves, she sees him gunned down in the parking lot. Her eyewitness testimony of the shooter's car, height, weight, and clothing will provide important clues for solving the case, but her emotional attachment to Leaphorn along with the trauma of  seeing him shot, takes her off the case. But Chee needs help as he is assigned as chief investigator, so the husband wife team begin a perilous search to discover who would want Leaphorn dead and why. The trail is crossed by any number of red herrings (or, perhaps, red hot chilies in this locale), but Chee and Bernie finally make a connection that may cost them their lives.  A great read, especially for Tony Hillerman fans, and clean clear through.