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An American MYSTERY! Special
Skinwalkers Coyote Waits A Thief of Time Navajoland Discussion
The Navajo: Yesterday and TodayHillerman on the SouthwestAbout HillermanResources
About The Books

  Like Holmes and Watson or Starsky and Hutch before them, Joe Leaphorn and Jim Chee have become a classic crime-fighting duo.

See also: Interview
Leaphorn and Chee didn't start out as a classic crime-fighting duo. In fact, they almost didn't exist at all. Leaphorn was originally a minor character in Tony Hillerman's first novel, while Chee emerged only when Hillerman found the need for a less savvy protagonist. Long after their first appearance on the fictional reservation landscape, they came together finally in Skinwalkers and have had trouble getting rid of each other ever since.

The Blessing Way, 1970

The first appearance of Lieutenant Joe Leaphorn of the Navajo Tribal Police, who discovers a corpse with a mouth full of sand. Without tracks or clues, he is ready to suspect a supernatural killer, but unwilling to jump to that conclusion. He begins the first of many investigations along the trail of mysticism and murder.

Dance Hall of the Dead, 1973

Detailing seldom-witnessed Zuni religious rites, this Edgar Award-winning tale follows Leaphorn on his search for two young boys who have disappeared. An archeological dig, a hypodermic needle, and the strange laws of the Zuni commingle along the mystifying trail to their discovery.

Listening Woman, 1978

When an old man and a teenage girl are murdered, the only witness is a blind Navajo listening woman who speaks of ghosts and witches. While the state police and FBI spin their wheels, the ever-skeptical Leaphorn embarks on an investigation that carries him into a 100-year-old conspiracy.

People of Darkness, 1980

Sergeant Jim Chee of the Navajo Tribal Police makes his entrance into the world of crime as he journeys into the Bad Country, where a lone assassin waits, nursing resentments fed by murder and greed.

The Dark Wind, 1982

A corpse whose palms and soles have been "scalped" is only the first strange clue in a deadly web spun by Navajo sorcery and white men's greed. Chee must piece together an airplane crash, an attack on a windmill, and a vanished cocaine shipment in order to solve the crime.

The Ghostway, 1984

Two strangers fight at the Shiprock Wash-O-Mat. One dies. The other drives off into the Big Reservation, but not before showing Old Joseph a photo of the man he seeks. That's enough to convince Chee to give chase, moving from haunted hogan to seedy Los Angeles streets and back to the reservation for a healing ceremony that turns deadly.

Skinwalkers, 1986
Leaphorn & Chee

Leaphorn and Chee join forces for the first time to investigate a trio of unsolved medicine-man homicides. Is there a connection? Leaphorn and Chee follow the clues into the spine-tingling world of Navajo witchcraft.

A Thief of Time, 1988
Leaphorn & Chee

Dr. Eleanor Friedman-Bernal arrives at an Anasazi Indian ruin only to discover that the ancient burial site has been looted. Weeks later, Leaphorn is investigating a report that she has been stealing precious artifacts when he discovers the anthropologist has also been reported missing. On a routine search for missing excavating equipment, Chee finds strange goings-on at another dig. The two join forces to unravel the mysteries of an ancient Indian civilization and a series of murders that revolve around its most beautiful -- and valuable -- legacy: Anasazi pots.

Talking God, 1989
Leaphorn & Chee

Tracking different cases, Leaphorn and Chee end up in Washington, D.C., for multiple crimes at the Smithsonian's National Museum of Natural History. While Leaphorn seeks the identity of a murder victim, Chee arrests Smithsonian conservator Henry Highhawk for ransacking the sacred bones of his ancestors. As the story unfolds, the cases converge, and Leaphorn and Chee enter into the dangerous arena of superstition and political assassination.

Coyote Waits, 1990
Leaphorn & Chee

Chee's good friend Delbert Nez lies dead, and whiskey-soaked Ashie Pinto, a Navajo shaman, has the murder weapon. He's quickly arrested for homicide but won't utter a word of confession or denial, so Leaphorn begins an investigation. The duo need to solve not just Nez's murder, but those of a University of New Mexico history professor in search of the graves of Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid and a former South Vietnamese colonel. Soon Leaphorn and Chee are unraveling a complex plot involving artifacts, money, and the mythical Coyote.

Sacred Clowns, 1993
Leaphorn & Chee

The maverick Chee relies on intuition. Leaphorn plays by the rules. Overwhelmed by two murder cases, a hit-and-run accident, a tribal corruption, and a counterfeit racket in sacred artifacts, the two once again find a way to work together and solve the seemingly unconnected murders of a mission schoolteacher on the Navajo Reservation and a Pueblo tribal official amid a troupe of sacred Hopi kachinas.

The Fallen Man, 1997

On Halloween a human skeleton is discovered near Ship Rock, the 1,700-foot-high peak that rises like a prow in the desert. Could it be the body of Harold Breedlove, a ranching heir who went missing 11 years before, days after the 30th birthday that earned him the family trust fund? Though retired, Leaphorn returns to the case he once investigated, assisting the newly promoted Chee. Before they discover the clue Leaphorn missed years before, the Breedloves' guide is wounded by a sniper. The Breedlove family's interest in the old case -- their attorney John McDermott (former mentor and lover of Chee's fiancée, Janet Pete) hires Leaphorn to investigate Breedlove's death -- confirming the duo's suspicion that the case is not dead yet.

The First Eagle, 1998

Anderson Nez has died of the Black Death, but no one knows why or how. Catherine Pollard, one of the scientists studying this newest outbreak, finds herself the subject of Officer Benny Kinsman's unwanted advances. When confronted, Kinsman takes off to nab a Hopi man who's poaching eagles. Chee arrives as backup only to find a young Hopi standing over Benny's mortally wounded body. Meanwhile, Leaphorn, now a consulting detective to the wealthy, is investigating Catherine Pollard's disappearance. Leaphorn and Chee come together again as they uncover the secret of Yells Back Butte, plague fleas, and skinwalkers.

Hunting Badger, 2000
Leaphorn & Chee

In 1998 three heavily armed "survivalists" rob a Ute casino, killing the head of security, wounding an off-duty Navajo police officer, and then vanishing into canyon country. Inspired by actual events on the Utah-Arizona border, the crime and bungled FBI manhunt recall Chee from his vacation. When a rancher gives him the criminals' names, Leaphorn is back in the saddle as well, and the two begin their own hunt for the wanted men. While the FBI relies on helicopters and high-tech equipment to name the wounded deputy sheriff a suspect, Chee and Leaphorn connect the crime with the legendary exploits of a Ute hero-bandit.

The Wailing Wind, 2002
Leaphorn & Chee

Rookie officer Bernadette Manuelito should have known the dead man wasn't just another drunk. Leaphorn knows better. He comes out of retirement to examine the shooting of Thomas Doherty, a murder which has links to the old Golden Calf homicide. Two years before, Marvin McKay tried to swindle Wiley Denton over a lost goldmine and was repaid with a lethal bullet. Denton's wife, Linda, disappeared that same day. While Denton was killing McKay, a group of teens lurking in an abandoned depot nearby heard La Llorana, the mythical wailing woman, crying out in the wind. Before Chee can cover Manuelito's tracks, she's begun an investigation linking both murders and the disappearance to the spectral wailing woman at Fort Wingate the Halloween night that Denton shot McKay.

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