Hillerman’s second novel in the crime and mystery genre now appears unusual among his works. Unlike most of the novels that to date have followed it, The Fly on the Wall contains no Native American material. Instead, it draws on Hillerman’s fourteen years’ experience as a political reporter, writer, and editor to create the story of a journalist working against time and mortal danger to complete an investigation of government corruption.
According to Hillerman, the order of publication for his first works confuses his original idea. His plan, when he first decided to write a novel, was for ‘‘a big, important book,’’ a mystery on the subject of The Fly on the Wall. Not sure of his talent for mysteries, Hillerman tried out first what at the time he thought was easier to do, which it is surprising to realize was The Blessing Way (Companion 55). In any case, the tryout proved he could manage the genre’s requirements, and so he resumed his original plan.
Compared to the popular reception Hillerman has won for the Navajo books, The Fly on the Wall has not, in fact, turned out to be his ‘‘big’’ novel or his most important. It is, however, an excellent example of suspenseful, puzzle-based detection fiction displaying a high order of narrative skill.