Backlist Book of the Month - Tony Hillerman's Skinwalkers
July 20, 2012
I envy you if you’ve never read a Tony Hillerman novel. You can still look forward to the thrill of discovering his stories for the very first time. I was living in Rome when I read my first one. Starved for the English language, I found a small library of left-behind paperbacks, which included several books in Hillerman’s Navajo Tribal Police series. I picked up Skinwalkers. I was hooked!
Hillerman’s mysteries are set in the 4-Corners area of New Mexico and Arizona. His lush descriptions of this harsh, but beautiful landscape bring it to life so vividly that the setting is as strong an element in the novels as his characters. Navajo Tribal police officers Joe Leaphorn, skeptical of Navajo tradition, and Jim Chee, new to both the police force and his responsibilities as a Navajo shaman, reflect the author’s deep respect for the land and the native people.
Skinwalkers follows Leaphorn and Chee's investigation into an attempt on Jim Chee's life and several gruesome murders on the reservation. Is it witchcraft or simply homicide? This intense, page-turner isn’t the first book in the series. It won Hillerman the Agatha Mystery award for best novel in 1988 and is the first to feature both Joe Leaphorn and Jim Chee as main characters. All of the novels work as stand-alones, but if you prefer to read them in chronological order, check out The Blessing Way first.