Skeleton Man

If you would have told me 20 years ago that my most enjoyable and anticipated reading experiences would be crime novels about two Navajo tribal policemen that take place in the area where Colorado, New Mexico, Utah, and Arizona meet, I would have called you crazy. I would have grabbed my Robert Ludlum or Tom Clancy novel and laughed in your face.

But here I sit, having just finished another fine story about Jim Chee and Joe Leaphorn, and I can safely say that in my estimation, there is no other fiction writer that fires on all cylinders as consistently as Hillerman. Here are a few of the great things about Tony Hillerman’s writing.

  • The relationship between Leaphorn (sage, retired cop) and Chee (young cop that occasionally bucks the system) is pitch perfect. Nothing is overdone and it’s very believable.
  • You are transported into a fascinating world of unfamiliar Native American customs in the arid landscape of the four corners region of the western US. Each book invariably brings outsiders into this world and the ensuing clash of cultures is an added twist on how the mystery shakes out.
  • Chee’s ongoing struggles with finding the perfect woman provide some great character depth but are never too obtrusive in the mystery at hand.

This current adventure has all of the above ingredients. Chee is months out from marrying former police officer Bernie Manuelito and in the middle of investigating a robbery and murder where the accused is a young nephew of Chee’s good friend, Officer Dashee. Chee and Dashee set off to slot-canyon country to dig up some evidence and Manuelito convinces them to bring her along. What was expected to be a routine evidence-gathering turns out to be perilous, and all sorts of intrigue erupts.

You can’t go wrong.