Reservations - Richard Paolinelli

So, the President of the Navajo Nation, Ben Yazzie, isn't ending the year/beginning the second year in office the way he wanted: three members of the tribal council have died under what can only be charitably called suspicious circumstances. He's pretty convinced that he's next on the list, so he calls in the cavalry (forgive the reference) via an old friend in the FBI. The old friend assigns a hot-shot young agent with a knack for saving heads of state, Jack Del Rio.


Del Rio is paired up with a reservation police officer, Lucy Chee. The two of them click almost immediately on a professional level and progress through the tangled political, personal and historical web that surrounds these murders. I enjoyed their teamwork, their banter and friendship. I liked almost every character -- even the ones we only met for a scene. I could've used a little more time with Yazzie, honestly -- although I'm not sure there was room for it. Chee and Del Rio, of course, I liked the best -- they were very well-developed and interesting.


I had a few problems with the book -- Paolinelli could trust his readers a bit more, his character's jokes would land better if he didn't go out of his way to make sure we knew they were jokes. The prose could be a leaner, just a touch, but he doesn't need to use quite as many words as he does (see the joke observation). I think his pacing could be better -- he spends too much time establishing the mystery and Del Rio independently at the beginning of the novel -- 1 chapter there, 1 chapter here -- it takes no time to figure out that Del Rio's going to be called in to investigate things (even without reading the book's blurb), and then I just got impatient with the intervening material until he actually hops on a plane. I'm sure Paolinelli had his reasons for it, I just don't think it worked as well as he may have wished.


Between just listening to Hearne's Tricked and being knee-deep in the latest season of Longmire, I was primed for this story about the Diné and reservation politics -- and Paolinelli nailed it. At least it seems like he did to someone who's contact with both is from a a decent share of fiction over the years, so pick the size of your salt grain to take with that. But the mix of Navajo, Hopi, Zuni, US cultures was well-balanced and fun.


Great final confrontation between our heroes and the villain -- I can't tell you all the reasons I liked it without ruining it, but for people who like thrillers/detective novels, I can assure you that there's more than enough reasons to like it.


The second Del Rio novel, Betrayals is out now, and I look forward to getting it. But we're talking about Reservations now, and I give this a solid recommendation for fans of the genre or non-fans wanting something different.


Disclaimer: I received a copy of this book from the author in exchange for my honest opinions -- and I really appreciate it.