This is the third of Tony Hillerman's Leaphorn mysteries. Listening Woman, a blind Navajo healer, is tending to Old Man Tso in order to find out what has been ailing him as of late. While she is away seeking for a vision, Tso and Listening Woman's young assistant are slain by an unknown assailant. The FBI has no clue as to the identity of the murderer, and the case remains unsolved until Lieutenant Leaphorn from the Navajo Tribal Police takes it up again several months later.
As so often in Hillerman's Indian mysteries, Leaphorn realizes that the murder can be solved only with some inside knowledge of Navajo customs and traditions. With the help of Listening Woman and John McGinnis, the old trader on Short Mountain Trading Post, Leaphorn discovers that Old Man Tso was in possession of an ancient Navajo secret involving various ceremonial sand paintings – a secret that was to be passed on to the eldest son of the family from generation to generation. Leaphorn also finds out that, while Tso's son has long been dead, he had been planning to contact his grandson shortly before his death.
Thus, Leaphorn follows up two tracks: On the one hand, he sets out to find the place where the mysterious sand paintings might be located, and on the other, he locates Tso's grandson. The information young Tso can provide is helpful, but before Leaphorn can visit with him again, he disappears. Leaphorn suspects that young Tso either is involved in the murder of his grandfather or has been taken captive by the real killers.
When trying to track him down, Leaphorn both discovers the sacred place of the sand paintings and finds himself confronted with the people behind the murder of Tso: He now has to deal with members of the radical militarist ‘Buffalo Society' who are in the process of conducting a high-profile terrorist action involving the kidnapping and planned murder of 15 innocent people. A run against time begins for Leaphorn to save the lives of the hostages.
This report prepared by Dorothea Lotter