Aimee and David Thurlo: The Ella Clah series

Changing Woman was the second Ella Clah mystery I’ve read. I honest don’t remember what the other one was, though I read it less than a year ago. There are eight or so books in the series about a Navajo tribal police officer. I guess I must have enjoyed the first one I picked up, because when I saw this title on the shelf, I grabbed it.

This one held my interest.

Let me back up a moment and admit that I’m a big fan of Tony Hillerman’s series set on the Navajo reservation. I love his characters, adore his descriptions of the southwest desert, and mostly appreciate his plots. (Though his latest efforts don’t measure up to his earlier stories, in my opinion.)

Changing Woman didn’t light my fire. It was okay. The plot was interesting, though not inspired. The main character is fairly well developed, though I never really empathized with her. The other characters were bit players, none of them really feeling like real people to me.

I was rather put off by the authors’ direct copy of an idiosyncrasy of one Hillerman’s primary characters, the device of an investigator putting colored pushpins into a map to mark the locations of criminal acts. Perhaps the authors meant that as a tribute to Hillerman, but to me it came off as cheap mimicry.

The Thurlos just didn’t offer the snap of local color and description that mesmerized me in the Hillerman books, either.

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