Former Navajo Tribal Police lieutenant Joe Leaphorn comes out of retirement to help investigate what seems to be a trading post robbery. A simpleminded kid nailed for the crime is the cousin of an old colleague of Sergeant Jim Chee. He needs help, and Chee and his fiancée, Bernie Manuelito, decide to provide it.
Proving the kid's innocence requires finding the remains of one of 172 people whose bodies were scattered among the cliffs of the Grand Canyon in an epic airline disaster fifty years in the past. That passenger had handcuffed to his wrist an attaché case filled with a fortune in diamonds -- one of which seems to have turned up in the robbery.
But with Hillerman, it can't be that simple. The daughter of the long-dead diamond dealer is also seeking his body. So is a most unpleasant fellow, willing to kill to make sure she doesn't succeed. It's a race to the finish in a thunderous monsoon to see who will survive, who will be brought to justice, and who will finally unearth the Skeleton Man.
Tony Hillerman (1925–2008), an Albuquerque, New Mexico, resident since 1963, was the author of 29 books, including the popular 18-book mystery series featuring Navajo police officers Jim Chee and Joe Leaphorn, two non-series novels, two children’s books, and nonfiction works. He had received every major honor for mystery fiction; awards ranging from the Navajo Tribal Council's commendation to France 's esteemed Grand prix de litterature policiere. Western Writers of America honored him with the Wister Award for Lifetime achievement in 2008. He served as president of the prestigious Mystery Writers of America, and was honored with that group’s Edgar Award and as one of mystery fiction’s Grand Masters. In 2001, his memoir, Seldom Disappointed, won both the Anthony and Agatha Awards for best nonfiction.