The Fallen Man
by Tony Hillerman

Review by
Robert Wilfred Franson

HarperCollins: New York, 1996

294 pages November 2008


The Fallen Man is one of Tony Hillerman's excellent mysteries of the American Southwest, told from the viewpoint of two of his characters in the Navaho Tribal Police: Jim Chee, assisted by the recently retired Joe Leaphorn. Although the story is a conflict of people and is told through a fine mix of folks, the atmosphere is the clean clear air of the desert and mountains of the Four Corners area.

Plot elements range from stolen livestock, through an obscured ranch inheritance, to an amateur mountaineer who disappeared years before climbing Ship Rock mountain.

The novel is a police procedural as well as a mystery. The procedures are that of sharp and desert-wise police work on the Navajo Reservation, and the mystery has plenty of odd side-trails and misdirections. The Navaho Tribal Police watch over a wide, far-horizon countryside with its people relatively few and far between; yet there are many little and big secrets and surprises in the desert and among the desert dwellers. Hillerman ties all his elements together: a set of lawmen more or less working to the same ends; Indians and big ranchers and tourists; the wild free openness of the desert, inviting but unforgiving; and deadly danger.

The rather diffident Jim Chee has grown in responsibilities and confidence. There's also a romance winding slow like a river in flat country: quiet, but with curves where you don't expect them.

The Fallen Man is an enjoyable novel, working folks with a tangle of mystery, all set in a fine evocation of the Southwestern desert.


© 2008 Robert Wilfred Franson

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There are a couple of very nice full-page photographs of Ship Rock as well as other beautiful Four Corners landscapes in the Tony Hillerman mysteries' companion volume, Hillerman Country.


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