The Fallen Man (1996)


Human bones lie on a ledge under the peak of Ship Rock mountain, the remains of a murder victim undisturbed for more than a decade. Three hundred miles across the Navajo reservation, a harmless old canyon guide is felled by a sniper's bullet. Joe Leaphorn, recently retired from the Navajo Tribal Police, believes the shooter and the skeleton are somehow connected and recalls a chilling puzzle he was previously unable to solve. But Acting Lieutenant Jim Chee is too busy to take an interest in a dusty cold case . . . until the reborn violence of it hits much too close to home.


The fallen man lay sprawled on a ledge under the peak of Ship Rock mountain for eleven years - visited only by the ravens that had picked his bones clean and scattered his rock-climbing gear. That peaceful period ended, appropriately, on Halloween, when a climbing party stumbled upon his bones and began a chain of events that would ultimately link Leaphorn and Chee.

At Canyon de Chelly, three hundred miles across the Navajo reservation, a sniper on the rim shoots an old canyon guide who had always walked the pollen path in peace.

At his home in Window Rock, Joe Leaphorn, newly retired from the Navajo Tribal Police, connects skeleton and sniper and remembers an old puzzle he could never solve.

In Washington, the trustee of a mining mogul's estate learns of the skeleton and makes Leaphorn an offer.

In his office at Shiprock, Acting Lieutenant Jim Chee is too busy with paperwork and cattle thefts to take much interest in the case - until he learns the woman he will soon marry is more interested than he thinks she should be.

As Chee and Leaphorn join to investigate why the fallen man fell, they set off across the high desert landscape of the Navajo reservation and into the lives of a rookie cop who is smarter than anyone thinks, a lonely woman who takes up her father's hobby of watching a mounting, a cattle-brand inspector who demonstrates that cows are even more curious than cats, a banker who knows her depositors' private lives as well as their balance sheets, a widow who loves one man too many, and the people who defy death on the towering cliffs of a sacred peak.

Most important, through the memory of those who had known him emerges an understanding of the fallen man himself - a man who had been given everything and found that it was not enough.

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