OK, I thought, "The Wailing Wind" was an aberration, a hiccup in the career of a very good author. But two points define a line, and "The Sinister Pig" plots Mr. Hillerman's career straight down. In the corporate world you sometimes see a luminary from an earlier era who is "RIP" -- retired in place -- just going through the motions, living on past glories and collecting the big bucks for his reputation, not his current work. Sadly, this describes Tony Hillerman, who has decided to stir around a few ashes, thow in a highly predictable conclusion, and call it a novel. I bet he's laughing at his readers all the way to the bank.
As for the book itself, reviewers occasionally describe a film as "OK for a 10-minute sketch on SNL, but not a 90-minute feature." That's Sinister Pig for you: interesting premise but almost no plot or character development (call central casting for all the stereotypes), no suspense (you know from the start who's really a bad guy and who's really not), and the shallowest of literary style (like Wailing Wind, everyone is constantly "grinning" at everyone else). The initial plot device, investigating diversion of Indian royalty payments, is both interesting and topical -- it's really happening -- but couldn't lead to a facile wrap-up in a mere 224 pages, so Mr. Hillerman switches to just another standard contraband tale. Rest assured, the good guys prosper, the bad guys pay, and the bad guys who are really good guys ... well, what do you expect?
I did like the little polemics on stealing of Indian royalties, the vested interest of both narcos and narcs in keeping the "War on Drugs" going full steam, and the pervasiveness of corruption in high office, but they weren't enough to salvage an otherwise trivial work.
If Mr. Hillerman hasn't retired completely, I'll wait until his next book is available in the public domain before reading it.