The Wailing Wind (2002)
Officer Bernadette Manuelito found the dead man slumped over in the cab of a blue pickup abandoned in a dry gulch off a dirt road, with a rich ex-con's phone number in his pocket . . . and a tobacco tin nearby filled with tracer gold. It's her initial mishandling of the scene that spells trouble for her supervisor, Sergeant Jim Chee of the Navajo Tribal Police, but it's the echoes of a long-ago crime that call the legendary former Lieutenant Joe Leaphorn out of retirement. Years earlier, Leaphorn followed the trail of a beautiful, young, and missing wife to a dead end, and his failure has haunted him ever since. But ghosts never sleep in these high, lonely Southwestern hills. And the twisted threads of craven murders past and current may finally be coming together, thanks to secrets once moaned in torment on the desert wind.
To Officer Bernadette Manuelito, the man curled up on the truck seat was just another drunk, which got Bernie in trouble for mishandling a crime scene, which got Sergeant Jim Chee in trouble with the FBI, which drew Lieutenant Joe Leaphorn out of retirement and back into the old "Golden Calf" homicide, a case he had hoped to forget.
Nothing had seemed complicated about that earlier one: A con game had gone sour. A swindler had tried to sell wealthy old Wiley Denton the location of one of the West's multitude of legendary lost gold mines. Denton had shot the swindler, called the police, confessed the homicide, and done his short prison time. No mystery there.
Except why did the rich man's bride vanish? The cynics said she was part of the swindle plot. She'd fled when it failed. But, alas, old Joe Leaphorn was a romantic. He believed in love, and thus the Golden Calf case still troubled him. Now, papers found in this new homicide case connect the victim to Denton and to the mythical Golden Calf Mine. The first Golden Calf victim had been there just hours before Denton killed him. And while Denton was killing him, four children trespassing among the rows of empty bunkers in the long-abandoned Wingate Ordnance Depot called in an odd report to the police. They had heard, in the wind wailing around the old buildings, what sounded like music and the cries of a woman.
Bernie Manuelito uses her knowledge of Navajo country, its tribal traditions, and her friendship with a famous old medicine man to unravel the first knot of this puzzle, with Jim Chee putting aside his distaste for the FBI to help her. But the questions raised by this second Golden Calf murder aren't answered until Leaphorn solves the puzzle left by the first one and discovers what the young trespassers heard in the wailing wind.