Reviews

The Sinister Pig by Tony Hillerman

Lanny Gilbert

If the way things work in Washington are truly as Mr. Hillerman describes them, the book, although fiction, will surely make many readers want to just vote out the whole group of politicians and bureaucrats and start over.


The Sinister Pig

Publisher: HarperCollins
Length: 240
Price: $25.95 (US)
Author: Tony Hillerman
US publication date: 2003-05
Amazon

In The Sinister Pig, Tony Hillerman's 16th book featuring Joe Leaphorn and/or Jim Chee, we have yet another winner. Hillerman has over 18.5 million books in print, has won both the Edgar and Grandmaster awards from the Mystery Writers of America, and the Navajo Tribe's Special Friend award.

Usually, the titles of Hillerman's work tie in with Navajo lore. The term Sinister Pig comes from a French phrase "cochon sinistre". It refers to the biggest, meanest pig in the lot (if you don't know what a pig lot is, then you "obviously ain't from around here") who eats everything he can possibly hold and then refuses to let any of the other pigs have anything to eat. After reading the novel, it is obvious why Hillerman chose such an apt phrase for his title.

The "sinister pig" of this novel is a Washington power broker named Rawley Winsor. Winsor's character: "... many-generations blue blood, echelons of high society, Princeton, then Harvard Law, famous Capitol deal doer, fundraisers, top-level runner of lobby campaigns, and might make the top of Fortune's most-wealthy list if his investments weren't so carefully hidden." We learn in the novel's opening pages that Winsor's unsavory character is replete with tons of money, huge amounts of power, and a craving for more and is truly deserving of the title "Sinister Pig". If the way things work in Washington are truly as Mr. Hillerman describes them, the book, although fiction, will surely make many readers want to just vote out the whole group of politicians and bureaucrats and start over.

As is usual writing style, Hillerman provides a tightly plotted suspense novel revolving around the most seemingly insignificant of clues -- just some photos of a "Mexican truck, a windmill construction site, exotic animals on a game ranch..." The photos were taken by Border Patrol officer Bernadette Manuelito, who previously worked (in earlier stories) with Jim Chee in the Navajo Tribal Police and is still romantically entangled with him, although neither of them will admit it outright. Their relationship provides several entertaining moments in some of Hillerman's past books.

Photos of Manuelito, taken by her boss, end up in the hands of Mexican drug lords. Somehow, Winsor becomes involved and the plot thickens. What do the photos represent? Why are so many people outraged about them? What is Winsor's involvement in all of this? Doesn't he have enough to do in Washington?

All of this brings the Legendary Lieutenant Joe Leaphorn into the fray. Leaphorn, before retiring, was Jim Chee's boss in the Navajo Tribal Police (and a mentor as well). Although retired, Leaphorn remains better connected to law enforcement and other government agencies than any lawman in the area. Chee turns to Leaphorn for help when he has a problem he can't solve. As Hillerman has brought out in several of his previous novels, one of Lt. Leaphorn's peccadilloes is his propensity to map everything, and this plays out again in The Sinister Pig to comic effect. Yet, Lt. Leaphorn and his maps do have a bearing on the final solution of the case.

Overall, this book is an entertaining one. It's suspenseful and enjoyable. Undoubtedly, it will please Hillerman's many fans. Missing, however, in this volume are Hillerman's descriptions of the breathtaking beauty of the Navajo Tribal land in which his stories take place. Readers should also note that Hillerman doesn't dwell very much on Navajo mythology or religion, two themes which have figured so highly in many of his past works and really add a differentiating factor to his books.

At his best, Mr. Hillerman makes you want to pack up your house, move to the Navajo Tribal land and spend the rest of your days away from the hustle and bustle of 21st century life. Thank you, sir, for another respite from the everyday.

To be a migrant worker in America is to relearn the basic skills of living. Imagine doing that in your 60s and 70s, when you thought you'd be retired.


Nomadland: Surviving America in the Twenty-First Century

Publisher: W. W. Norton
Author: Jessica Bruder
Publication date: 2017-09
Amazon

There's been much hand-wringing over the state of the American economy in recent years. After the 2008 financial crisis upended middle-class families, we now live with regular media reports of recovery and growth -- as well as rising inequality and decreased social mobility. We ponder what kind of future we're creating for our children, while generally failing to consider who has already fallen between the gaps.

Keep reading... Show less
7

Very few of their peers surpass Eurythmics in terms of artistic vision, musicianship, songwriting, and creative audacity. This is the history of the seminal new wave group

The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame nominating committee's yearly announcement of the latest batch of potential inductees always generates the same reaction: a combination of sputtering outrage by fans of those deserving artists who've been shunned, and jubilation by fans of those who made the cut. The annual debate over the list of nominees is as inevitable as the announcement itself.

Keep reading... Show less

Barry Lyndon suggests that all violence—wars, duels, boxing, and the like—is nothing more than subterfuge for masculine insecurities and romantic adolescent notions, which in many ways come down to one and the same thing.

2001: A Space Odyssey (1968) crystalizes a rather nocturnal view of heterosexual, white masculinity that pervades much of Stanley Kubrick's films: after slithering from the primordial slime, we jockey for position in ceaseless turf wars over land, money, and women. Those wielding the largest bone/weapon claim the spoils. Despite our self-delusions about transcending our simian stirrings through our advanced technology and knowledge, we remain mired in our ancestral origins of brute force and domination—brilliantly condensed by Kubrick in one of the most famous cuts in cinematic history: a twirling bone ascends into the air only to cut to a graphic match of a space station. Ancient and modern technology collapse into a common denominator of possession, violence, and war.

Keep reading... Show less
10

This book offers a poignant and jarring reminder not just of the resilience of the human spirit, but also of its ability to seek solace in the materiality of one's present.

Marcelino Truong launched his autobiographical account of growing up in Saigon during the Vietnam War with the acclaimed graphic novel Such a Lovely Little War: Saigon 1961-63, originally published in French in 2012 and in English translation in 2016. That book concluded with his family's permanent relocation to London, England, as the chaos and bloodshed back home intensified.

Now Truong continues the tale with Saigon Calling: London 1963-75 (originally published in French in 2015), which follows the experiences of his family after they seek refuge in Europe. It offers a poignant illustration of what life was like for a family of refugees from the war, and from the perspective of young children (granted, Truong's family were a privileged and upper class set of refugees, well-connected with South Vietnamese and European elites). While relatives and friends struggle to survive amid the bombs and street warfare of Vietnam, the displaced narrator and his siblings find their attention consumed by the latest fashion and music trends in London. The book offers a poignant and jarring reminder not just of the resilience of the human spirit, but also of its ability to seek solace in the materiality of one's present.

Keep reading... Show less
8

Canadian soul singer Elise LeGrow shines on her impressive interpretation of Fontella Bass' classic track "Rescue Me".

Canadian soul singer Elise LeGrow pays tribute to the classic Chicago label Chess Records on her new album Playing Chess, which was produced by Steve Greenberg, Mike Mangini, and the legendary Betty Wright. Unlike many covers records, LeGrow and her team of musicians aimed to make new artistic statements with these songs as they stripped down the arrangements to feature leaner and modern interpretations. The clean and unfussy sound allows LeGrow's superb voice to have more room to roam. Meanwhile, these classic tunes take on new life when shown through LeGrow's lens.

Keep reading... Show less
Pop Ten
Mixed Media
PM Picks

© 1999-2017 Popmatters.com. All rights reserved.
Popmatters is wholly independently owned and operated.

rating-image