Finding Moon (1995)
Finding Moon is a mystery novel set in in Southeast Asia. It features amateur and reluctant detective Moon Mathias, who is searching for his late brother's secret child. This novel marks Tony Hillerman's brief departure from both the Southwest and his trusty Navajo detectives. The novel is set during the fall of Saigon at the end of the Vietnam War.
Until the telephone call came for him on April 12, 1975, the world of Moon Mathias had settled into a predictable routine. He knew who he was. He was the disappointing son of Victoria Mathias, the brother of the brilliant, recently dead Ricky Mathias, and a man who could be counted on to solve small problems. But the telephone caller was an airport security officer, and the news he delivered handed Moon a problem as large as Southeast Asia.
His mother, who should be in her Florida apartment, is fighting for her life in a Los Angeles hospital-stricken while en route to the Philippines to bring home a grandchild they hadn't known existed. The papers in her purse send Moon into a world totally strange to him. They lure him down the backstreets of Manila, to a rural cockfight, into the odd Filipino prison on Palawan Island, and finally across the South China Sea to where Pol Pot's Khmer Rouge is turning Cambodia into killing fields, and Communist rockets are beginning to fall on the outskirts of Saigon.
Those he meets on this quest are as strange to Moon as Asia itself. There is Lum Lee, an elderly Chinese man who wants Moon to finish a job left unfinished by Ricky's death. But is Lee seeking ancestral bones as he claims, or a shipment of opium lost in the chaos of war? There is Mrs. van Winjgaarden, a chic and sophisticated folk-art buyer who wants his help to save her missionary brother--if that is really her motive. Only Nguyen, a warrior in a lost cause, with KILL COMMUNISTS tattooed on his chest, seems easy to understand. But hardest of all for Moon to fathom is the mythical version of himself he finds among his brother's friends.