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Grandmother Spider: A Charlie Moon Mystery (Charlie Moon Mysteries)

A lawman with a hardy appetite for life and an unshakable faith in the explicable, Southern Ute Acting Chief of Police Charlie Moon is not prepared to accept a purely supernatural explanation for the recent strange events of April 1. Nevertheless, something carried off Tommy Tonompicket and his unlikely drinking companion, research scientist William Pizinski, in the black chill of the Colorado night. And something ripped the head off a man outside a lonely cabin in the mountains…and left two large, fanglike punctures in his chest. And though Charlie‘s eccentric old aunt, the shaman Daisy Perika, claims the gargantuan avenging arachnid Grandmother Spider has risen up from the depths of Navajo Lake, the hulking, good-natured tribal policeman feels in his gut that this is murder, pure if not simple, and most probably by human hands.

It’s pretty well understood that mysteries come with an implied contract. Authors, for their part, promise to deliver plots and resolutions, however improbable, with some degree of plausibility. Readers, in turn, give an author a 50-50 shot by turning down the gain on their innate disbelief. Then along comes Grandmother Spider and all bets are off.

Southern Ute tribal policeman Charlie Moon has a problem. It seems that, thanks to the imprudent squishing of a wayward spider, the giant spirit Grandmother Spider has risen from her cave below Navajo Lake and exacted revenge on humanity by snatching the research scientist William Pizinski and Tommy Tonompicket, the local carouser with whom he was drinking. Charlie knows this because the squisher was Sarah Frank, the 9-year-old ward of his elderly, shamanic, and altogether elsewhere aunt, Daisy Perika. And Daisy got it straight from a dwarfish spirit called a pitukupf.

The pitukupf half smiled, exposing jagged rows of yellowed teeth. He vigorously stirred the crooked stick in the embers under the apparition, kindling new flames. The dwarf ceremoniously lifted the helical baton like a conductor calling dark chords from an unseen orchestra. The glowing sparks swirled up the column of heated air… and the hideous image of the eight-legged creature followed. As it ascended, the grayish form took on the bright orange hue of the yellow flames beneath it. The apparition grew larger, the entrapped man struggled vainly in hope of release. And screamed piteously for someone to help him.

And that’s not the half of it. Before long, Charlie and his friend, Granite Creek Police Chief Scott Parris, are up to their gun belts in national security issues, mutilated bodies, hideous creatures roaming the countryside snatching sandwiches from the mouths of 80-year-olds, and the bizarre reappearance of the two missing and now-amnesiac tipplers. And, happily, that’s still not the half of it.

Grandmother Spider is Charlie Moon‘s sixth, strangest, and perhaps funniest airing (from 1994’s The Shaman Sings through 1999’s The Night Visitor). With mystery and mysticism enough to satisfy Hillerman’s fans, and humor, memorable characterization, and good writing enough to satisfy everyone else, who’s going to quibble about a silly old contract? — Michael Hudson

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3 Responses

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  1. wendybird "Wendy" says

    Great fun! perfect summer reading Finally…a mystery so outrageous it seems unsolvable without breaking the bounds of reason…and a solution outrageous enough to work!! I loved how this book mixed elements of a modern police/detective story with Native American shamanism and even a little of the supernatural. I also enjoyed the characters, especially the old shaman Daisy ,a cranky, fiesty woman with a shrewd sense of humor, and Charlie Moon, the soft-spoken Ute police chief with an appetite for unhealthy food.

  2. Hortensia "Sunshine" says

    gotcha This was interesting, and very readable. I enjoyed it, although I still say the author uses foreshadowing way too much. But in this story, the author plays some really good tricks on the reader – Charlie Moon keeps repeating there is a reasonable explanation for everything, but we get sidetracked by the metaphysical – the visions, shamans, symbolism, dreams and so on. I usually can figure out just about any mystery, but the author had me on this one. I was surprised at the resolution of the mystery, and had a good laugh, too.

  3. Harriet Klausner says

    in the tradition of Tony Hillerman On April first on Colorado’s Southern Ute Reservation, Shaman Daisy Perika’s young ward Sarah Frank steps on a spider, but fails to perform the proper ritual to ward off trouble. According to legend, Grandmother Spider will emerge from her cave under Navaho Lake looking for Utes to eat. That night, the two women observe an egg-shaped object with appendages emerges from the vicinity of the lake.

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