This book, definitely the worst in the series, is as flat as a pancake from start to finish, with a "mystery" as complex as an Encyclopedia Brown story. Chee and Leaphorn have basically nothing to do in this story except pass on endless, awkward exposition. Side characters slide in and out with no real purpose. The only cop who Hillerman seems to be interested in, the fetching Bernie Manuelito, becomes a helpless pawn in a macho boy's game of drugs and power. Even Hillerman's trademark Ansel Adams-esque descriptions of the southwestern scenery seem minimized and irrelevant. Hillerman can't even figure out how to end it properly, resorting to a horridly uncharacteristic "epilogue" that seems like it was written two hours before deadline.
This series really does have a lot of legs in it, but Hillerman no longer seems to have the energy to keep it moving. Perhaps it's time for someone else to take over with Hillerman serving as consultant. Because it would be a shame for Chee and Leaphorn to continue on the downward spiral that has plagued Hillerman's most recent efforts.
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.
I don't know who wrote this book, but it wasn't Hillerman. It was poorly plotted, with weak character definition and bad dialog.
What's a fan to do?