The Shape Shifter (Joe Leaphorn and Jim Chee Series #18)

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Overview

Since his retirement from the Navajo Tribal Police, Joe Leaphorn has been called on occasionally by his former colleagues to help them solve a puzzling crime. And Leaphorn, aided by Jim Chee and Bernie Manuelito, always delivers.

But this time, the problem is with an old case of Joe's ––his "last case", unsolved and haunting him. And with Chee and Bernie on their honeymoon, Leaphorn is on his own. The case involved a priceless Navajo rug gone missing. Now, years later, Leaphorn ...

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THORPE, PETER; JACKET DESIGN New York, NY 2006 Hard cover First edition. FIRST EDITION New in new dust jacket. Sewn binding. Cloth over boards. 276 p. Joe Leaphorn/Jim Chee ... Novels. Audience: General/trade. GREAT BOOK LT. JOE LEAPHORN IS BACK, (native american) IN THIS LATEST TALE OF MURDER & MYSTERY, FROM THE RENOWNED BESTSELLING AUTHOR, TONY HILLERMAN. A GREAT GIFT FOR MYSTERY LOVER. FIRST EDITION Read more Show Less

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A picture cut from a glossy magazine, Luxury Living, draws retired Navajo tribal policeman Lt. Joe Leaphorn into a hunt for a soulless killer in bestseller Hillerman's enthralling ... 18th Leaphorn/Chee whodunit. The picture's sender, Mel Bork, another cop retiree, wonders if the distinctive Navajo rug shown in the picture is the same one Leaphorn described to him long ago, a rug supposedly destroyed in a fire the two officers investigated that took the life of a person identified as among the FBI's most wanted. Bork's subsequent disappearance and murder herald the dangers awaiting Leaphorn from a most formidable enemy. As Leaphorn searches for evidence to confirm his suspicions, he enlists the aid of Sgt. Jim Chee and his bride, Bernadette Manuelito, just back from their honeymoon. Only the late Hillerman could so masterfully connect such disparate elements as an ancient cursed weaving, two stolen buckets of pi?on sap and the Vietnam War. The conclusion is sure to startle longtime fans of this acclaimed mystery series. Read more Show Less

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The Shape Shifter (Joe Leaphorn and Jim Chee Series #18)

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Overview

Since his retirement from the Navajo Tribal Police, Joe Leaphorn has been called on occasionally by his former colleagues to help them solve a puzzling crime. And Leaphorn, aided by Jim Chee and Bernie Manuelito, always delivers.

But this time, the problem is with an old case of Joe's ––his "last case", unsolved and haunting him. And with Chee and Bernie on their honeymoon, Leaphorn is on his own. The case involved a priceless Navajo rug gone missing. Now, years later, Leaphorn is picking up the threads of a crime he'd thought impossible to solve. Hillerman is at the top of his form in this atmospheric and stunning novel.

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Editorial Reviews

From Barnes & Noble
Lt. Joe Leaphorn is technically retired, but the former Navajo tribal policeman just can't resist the lure of a new case. In The Shape Shifter, all it takes to reactivate him is a glossy photo from a magazine. Suspicious because the rug in the picture resembles a priceless, supposedly destroyed artifact, Leaphorn reopens a cold case that has haunted him ever since his retirement. Assisting him in the hunt are recent honeymooners Jimmy Chee and Bernadette Manuelito. A Southwest whodunit that delivers: well written; cleverly plotted; memorable characters.
Marilyn Stasio
Like all the great storytellers, from Homer on down, Tony Hillerman knows that every dark and twisted tale of murder can be traced back to its mythic origins. In the case of The Shape Shifter, his new police procedural set in the tribal territories of the Southwest, this means that the solution to a modern-day mystery might be found by going all the way back to Indian legends about how man first brought evil into the earthly paradise the Navajos call “the glittering world.”… Hillerman’s lyrical novel is as much about recovering these lost legends — and the existential purpose they offer an aging hero in recoil from “the retirement world” — as it is about bringing a criminal to justice. So there’s real poignancy in Leaphorn’s efforts to track down an antique rug woven to commemorate “all the dying, humiliation and misery” on the Navajo nation’s “Long Walk” home from an Army concentration camp in the 1860s.
— The New York Times
Publishers Weekly
A picture cut from a glossy magazine, Luxury Living, draws retired Navajo tribal policeman Lt. Joe Leaphorn into a hunt for a soulless killer in bestseller Hillerman's enthralling 18th Leaphorn/Chee whodunit (after 2004's Skeleton Man). The picture's sender, Mel Bork, another cop retiree, wonders if the distinctive Navajo rug shown in the picture is the same one Leaphorn described to him long ago, a rug supposedly destroyed in a fire the two officers investigated that took the life of a person identified as among the FBI's most wanted. Bork's subsequent disappearance and murder herald the dangers awaiting Leaphorn from a most formidable enemy. As Leaphorn searches for evidence to confirm his suspicions, he enlists the aid of Sgt. Jim Chee and his bride, Bernadette Manuelito, just back from their honeymoon. Only Hillerman could so masterfully connect such disparate elements as an ancient cursed weaving, two stolen buckets of pi on sap and the Vietnam War. The conclusion is sure to startle longtime fans of this acclaimed mystery series. (Nov.) Copyright 2006 Reed Business Information.
Library Journal
Hillerman's latest venture (after Skeleton Man) into the familiar world of the Navajo reservation in Arizona and New Mexico is not his best, but it will still be enjoyed by his loyal fans. Sgt. Jim Chee and his new wife, Bernie, have just returned from their honeymoon and thus have only a peripheral role here. Lt. Joe Leaphorn, recently retired from the Navajo police force, is front and center in the action, which begins when he receives a letter from an old acquaintance questioning the conclusions they reached years ago in the case of a burned-out trading post. The titular shape shifter refers to the many identities the bad guy has assumed and gives Leaphorn chances to relate Navajo tales of evil and witchcraft. As always, Hillerman seamlessly weaves bits of Navajo lore and history into the narrative, the major strength of this entry in his long-lived series. Purchase where Hillerman is popular; his fans will appreciate the update on the lives of Leaphorn and Chee. [See Prepub Alerts, LJ 2/15/06; 7/15/06.]-Ann Forister, Roseville, CA Copyright 2006 Reed Business Information.
Kirkus Reviews
Lt. Joe Leaphorn, who can't seem to stay retired, investigates a case that takes him back to his earliest days with the Navajo Tribal Police. When Erwin Totter's trading post burned to the ground back in 1965, the news that Ray Shewnack, a fugitive on the FBI's Most Wanted List, had perished in the blaze drew all available officers to the scene. Joe Leaphorn (Skeleton Man, 2004, etc.) was pulled away from Grandma Peshlakai's, where he'd gone in hopes of recovering the ten gallons of pinyon sap stolen from her. It was a waste of time, Grandma Peshlakai insisted, since the man was certainly dead. Now Leaphorn's old friend Mel Bork, a private eye in Flagstaff, has disappeared after sending Leaphorn a photograph of a tribal rug that's supposed to have been destroyed in the Totter fire. If the rug survived-and when Leaphorn treks out to Flagstaff to examine it as it hangs on the wall of big-game hunter Jason Delos's lodge-maybe Shewnack, a holdup artist who managed to kill two victims and finger his three accomplices to the police, isn't dead after all. Not much mystery this time, and Sgt. Jim Chee and his bride Bernadette Manuelito ("now it's Chee") are mostly kept offstage. But Hillerman's warmth is undiminished as he follows a dogged old cop who burns up gasoline by driving all over Arizona because he can't bear to sit at home.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780060563455
  • Publisher: HarperCollins Publishers
  • Publication date: 11/21/2006
  • Series: Joe Leaphorn and Jim Chee Series , #18
  • Pages: 288
  • Product dimensions: 6.00 (w) x 9.10 (h) x 1.20 (d)

Meet the Author

Tony Hillerman

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.

George Guidall is one of the foremost narrators in the audiobook industry, having recorded over 500 unabridged books ranging from classics to contemporary bestsellers. He is the recipient of the 1999 Audie Award presented by the Audio Publishers Association for the best narration of unabridged fiction.

Biography

Tony Hillerman (1925-2008), an Albuquerque, New Mexico, resident since 1963, was the author of 29 books, including the popular 17-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.

Author biography courtesy of HarperCollins.

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    1. Hometown:
      Albuquerque, New Mexico
    1. Date of Birth:
      May 27, 1925
    2. Place of Birth:
      Sacred Heart, Oklahoma
    1. Date of Death:
      October 26, 2008
    2. Place of Death:
      Albuquerque, New Mexico

Read an Excerpt

The Shape Shifter


By Tony Hillerman

HarperCollins

Copyright © 2006 Tony Hillerman
All right reserved.

ISBN: 0-06-056345-1


Chapter One

Lieutenant Joe Leaphorn, retired, stopped his pickup about a hundred yards short of where he had intended to park, turned off the ignition, stared at Sergeant Jim Chee's trailer home, and reconsidered his tactics. The problem was making sure he knew what he could tell them, and what he shouldn't, and how to handle it without offending either Bernie or Jim. First he would hand to whomever opened the door the big woven basket of fruit, flowers, and candies that Professor Louisa Bourbonette had arranged as their wedding gift, and then keep the conversation focused on what they had thought of Hawaii on their honeymoon trip, and apologize for the duties that had forced both Louisa and him to miss the wedding itself. Then he would pound them with questions about their future plans, whether Bernie still intended to return to her job with the Navajo Tribal Police. She would know he already knew the answer to that one, but the longer he could keep them from pressing him with their own questions, the better. Maybe he could avoid that completely. It wasn't likely. His answering machine had been full of calls from one or the other of them. Full of questions. Why hadn't he called them back with the details of that Totter obituary he wanted them to look into? Why was he interested? Hadn't he retired as he'd planned? Was this some old cold case he wanted to clear up as a going awaypresent to the Navajo Tribal Police? And so forth.

Louisa had provided him with a choice of two solutions. Just go ahead and swear them both to secrecy and tell them the whole truth and nothing but the truth. Or just say he simply couldn't talk about it because it was all totally confidential.

"Don't forget, Joe," Louisa had said, "they're both in the awful gossiping circuit you police people operate. They're going to be hearing about the murders, and the shooting, and all the rest of it, and by the time it gets passed along second-, third-, and fourth-hand, it's all going to seem a lot more horrible than what you told me." With that, Louisa had paused, shaken her head, and added: "If that's possible."

Both of Louisa's suggestions were tempting, but neither was practical. Chee and Bernie were both sworn-in officers of the law (or Bernie would be again as soon as the papers were signed) and telling them everything he knew would put them in an awful ethical position. Sort of the same position he had landed in himself, which he really didn't want to think about right now.

Instead he'd think about Chee and Bernie, starting with how Bernie had already seemed to have a civilizing influence on Jim, judging from the nice white curtains Leaphorn could see in the trailer's windows, and-even more dramatic-the attractive blue-and-white mailbox with a floral design substituted for the rusty old tin box that had always before received Chee's mail. Not, Leaphorn guessed, that many people had been writing to Jim.

Leaphorn restarted his engine and began the slow drive toward the house. Just as he did, the door opened. And there was Bernie, waving to him, and Chee right behind her, big grin on his face. Quit worrying, Leaphorn told himself. I'm going to enjoy this. And he did.

Chee took the basket, looking as if he had no idea what to do with it. Bernie rescued it, declaring it was just what they needed and how thoughtful it was of him and Louisa, and how the basket was beautifully woven, neatly waterproofed with pinyon sap, and would long be treasured. Then came the hand shaking, and the hugs, and inside for coffee and conversation. Leaphorn kept it on the Hawaii trip as long as he could, listening to Bernie's report on her arrangements to rejoin the tribal police and her chances of being assigned to Captain Largo's command and being posted at Teec Nos Pos, which would be convenient, presuming that Chee would still be working out of Shiprock.

And so it went, coffee sipped, cookies nibbled, lots of smiling and laughing, exuberant descriptions of swimming in the cold, cold Pacific surf, a silly scene in which an overenthusiastic Homeland Security man at the Honolulu Airport had been slapped by an elderly woman he was frisking, had seized her, and had been whacked again by her husband, who turned out to be a retired, oft-decorated Marine Corps colonel. This resulted in the Homeland Security supervisor wanting the colonel arrested, and an airport official, who turned out to be an army survivor of the Korean War, apologizing to the colonel's wife and giving the Homeland Security pair a loud public lecture on American history. All happy, easy, and good-natured.

But then Sergeant Jim Chee said: "By the way, Lieutenant, Bernie and I have been wondering what got you interested in the Totter obituary. And why you never called us again. We would have been willing to do some more checking on it for you."

"Well, thanks," Leaphorn said. "I knew you would do it, but I knew of a fellow living right there in Oklahoma City who sort of volunteered for the job. No use bothering you honeymooners again. By the looks of things, you've decided to settle in right here. Right? Great place, here, right on the bank of the San Juan River."

But that effort to change the subject didn't work.

"What did he find out for you?" Bernie asked.

Leaphorn shrugged. Drained his coffee cup, extended it toward Bernie, suggesting the need for a refill. "Didn't amount to anything," he said. "Great coffee you're making, Bernie. I bet you didn't follow Chee's old formula of 'too little grounds, boiled too long.'"

Chee was grinning at Leaphorn, ignoring the jibe.

"Come on, Lieutenant, quit the stalling. What'd you find out? And what got you so interested in the first place?"

(Continues...)



Excerpted from The Shape Shifter by Tony Hillerman Copyright © 2006 by Tony Hillerman. Excerpted by permission.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.
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Table of Contents

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Customer Reviews

Average Rating 3.5
( 21 )
Rating Distribution

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(5)

4 Star

(9)

3 Star

(3)

2 Star

(3)

1 Star

(1)

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See All Sort by: Showing 1 – 20 of 21 Customer Reviews
  • Anonymous

    Posted November 29, 2007

    As always, a pure joy to read! I loved it!

    I've read a few of the other reviews, and felt I needed to put in my 2 cents. I read purely for enjoyment, not to critique the plot, or the characters. As far as I am concerned, this is another terrific story in the Joe Leaphorn/Jim Chee series by Tony Hillerman. Joe is a retired Navajo Tribal Police Lieutenant, who over the past few years since retirement has found several puzzles to keep him occupied. The latest is a photo sent to him by his friend Mel Bork of an old Navajo rug that is up for auction. Problem is, the rug was burned long ago in a fire, the same fire that killed a criminal Joe was after. It's a case that was never solved, and when Mel Bork disappears, Joe digs into it once again. As always, there is a wealth of cultural information, especially regarding the shapeshifter legends, and the usual breathtaking scenery that Tony paints so well in the imagination.

    4 out of 4 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted December 13, 2006

    RICH IN INDIAN LORE - SPICED WITH MYSTERY

    The transformation myth is very much a part of Native American culture. As retired Navajo tribal policeman Joe Leaphorn describes it there is a name for their worst kind of witches: `One version translates into English as skinwalkers. Another version comes out as shape shifters.' Officer Jim Chee remembers the time he was told about sheep being bothered by a shape shifter, a wolf, who quickly turned into an owl and flew away. Evidently, shape shifters can even turn themselves into inanimate objects. A description of this myth is the springboard for the latest story of mystery and murder by renowned author Tony Hillerman. This is his 18th Leaphorn/Chee mystery and it's a dandy. Leaphorn receives a clipping from an upscale magazine, Luxury Living. It is a photo of a Navajo rug, an unmistakable one that was supposedly destroyed in a fire long ago. The same fire that took the life of a wanted criminal. It's an old case for Leaphorn, one that was never solved. Who sent the clipping? Mel Bork, another retired policeman, who begins to investigate the case and then suddenly disappears. The rug is pictured in the home of a wealthy investment banker. But, how could a rug that was burned beyond any hope of repair reappear in what seems to be pristine condition? Pure Hillerman - pure reading pleasure. - Gail Cooke

    1 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted December 10, 2006

    Yet another disappointment from Tony Hillerman

    After reading Tony Hillerman's latest effort, The Shape Shifter, it's hard to believe this is the work of the same author who gave us such compelling mysteries as The Blessing Way, People of Darkness, and Listening Woman. Once again, Hillerman has given us not a mystery--readers will figure out everything in the first third of the book--but another white-man adventure set in Indian Country. Underlying the story is the author's attempt to educate the reader about the parallels of the infamous Long March of the Navajos and the sad fate of the Laotian Hmong. As background, the material is interesting, but the narrative on the Hmong runs on to the point where it breaks the pace of the story. To say that the plot is predictable is an understatement. Hillerman's last five Leaphorn-Chee novels have all been weakly plotted adventures rather than mysteries--the loss, I'm afraid, is ours. And to add to the disappointment, both the author and his editor display some carelessness: Joe Leaphorn, as fans of the series know, lives in Window Rock, Arizona, the Navajo capital. In this book, he arrives at his Window Rock home early on (page 17), but subsequently, his domicile is identified as Shiprock, which is a town in New Mexico a hundred miles away. Which is it, Tony?

    1 out of 3 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted January 16, 2012

    more from this reviewer

    Leaphorn rocks!

    in true Hillerman style, Joe Leaphorn works his way through a mystery & resolves things the "Injun" way!

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  • Posted August 21, 2011

    more from this reviewer

    Repetitive

    CD/Abridged/Mystery: This was the second Joe Leaphorn mystery. In this one, Joe Leaphorn, retired, tries to settle an old mystery that has been bothering him since his rookie days. I could recite you Leaphorn's theory of the crime, since he repeats the pinion sap theory numerous times. It does become very repetitive by the fourth or fifth time. You do feel for Leaphorn. He is in his second month or so of retirement and he is bored. It was likeable and listenable, but I really don't recommend it.

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  • Posted March 28, 2010

    more from this reviewer

    Better Than Expected

    I put off buying and reading this book for several years. I felt The Sinister Pig and Skeleton Man were subpar efforts by an aging writer. I was suprised to find that this book was a comeback of sorts. A few things did bother me. In the long running series Joe Leaphorn has been retired since 1996's the Fallen Man, yet here he seems to have left the Navajo police in the last month or so. But the fact that, for one last time, Tony Hillerman was able to return to form allowed me to forgive that and the fact there was little real mystery to the plot. If there are no more Leaphorn-Chee novels in the pipeline, this will be an honorable coda.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted September 5, 2009

    Typical Leaphorn & Chee adventure

    Amazing knowledge of the area.

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  • Posted February 2, 2009

    more from this reviewer

    A reviewer

    Chosen a Golden Voice for outstanding narration actor George Guidall is a versatile performer, he's read everything from humor to dark Russian classics. Very much at ease in bringing Hillerman's characters to life, he delivers this story almost laconically thus allowing the author's words to take center stage. The transformation myth is very much a part of Native American culture. As retired Navajo tribal policeman Joe Leaphorn describes it there is a name for their worst kind of witches: `One version translates into English as skinwalkers. Another version comes out as shape shifters.' Officer Jim Chee remembers the time he was told about sheep being bothered by a shape shifter, a wolf, who quickly turned into an owl and flew away. Evidently, shape shifters can even turn themselves into inanimate objects. A description of this myth is the springboard for the latest story of mystery and murder by renowned author Tony Hillerman. This is his 18th Leaphorn/Chee mystery and it's a dandy. Leaphorn receives a clipping from an upscale magazine, Luxury Living. It is a photo of a Navajo rug, an unmistakable one that was supposedly destroyed in a fire long ago. The same fire that took the life of a wanted criminal. It's an old case for Leaphorn, one that was never solved. Who sent the clipping? Mel Bork, another retired policeman, who begins to investigate the case and then suddenly disappears. The rug is pictured in the home of a wealthy investment banker. But, how could a rug that was burned beyond any hope of repair reappear in what seems to be pristine condition? Pure Hillerman - pure listening pleasure. Highly recommended! - Gail Cooke

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted March 19, 2007

    Slipping, slipping....

    Hillerman had me hooked on the earlier Leaphorn/Chee mysteries, but the last few have been getting thinner and thinner on plot, suspense and character development. I'm sure his 'formula' is making money, but it's not generating good mysteries. Janet Evanovich seems to be heading in the same direction....

    0 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted February 19, 2007

    Good story line!

    Classic Leaphorn but I missed Chee's involvement. Too much complainig about getting old but a good solid mystery in typical Navajo fashion! Its hard for me to not like a book about the Navajo Nation.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted November 23, 2006

    Retired Navajo Cop Joe Leaphorn is (Mostly) on His Own Solving a Cold Case File in `The Shape Shifter¿

    By David M. Kinchen An intriguing letter from a retired cop draws retired Navajo Tribal Police Officer Lt. Joe Leaphorn back into the crime-solving game in Tony Hillerman¿s 18th Leaphorn/Chee procedural ¿The Shape Shifter¿ (HarperCollins, 288 pages, $26.95). As a big fan of Hillerman¿s who has been to the area in question on a number of occasions, I was delighted to see the return of Leaphorn (his last appearance was in 2004¿s ¿Skeleton Man¿). In his letter from Flagstaff, Arizona to Joe in Shiprock, NM -- the Navajo Reservation sprawls over Arizona, New Mexico and Utah in the Four Corners area where the three states ¿ and Colorado -- come together ¿ Melvin Bork includes a photo from a glossy lifestyle magazine showing a one-of-a-kind Navajo tale-telling rug that everybody believes had been destroyed in a trading post fire years before. Leaphorn is often called on, even in retirement, to help solve crimes ¿ this was the case in ¿Skeleton Man¿ -- but this one is special since it involves an elderly Navajo woman, two buckets of pinyon tree sap that may have a connection with the fire, the missing rug and a mysterious rich man named Jason Delos, living in an estate on the foothills north of Flagstaff who may or may not possess the rug. Joe Leaphorn was a young cop when the pinyon tree sap was stolen and he never found the thief, much to the disgust of the elderly lady, who is still alive. The sap is used by Navajo craft people to waterproof their woven baskets. Leaphorn, a widower bored with retirement, hops in his pickup and scouts out the territory with a cop he knows in Flagstaff, Sgt. Kelly Garcia, with the Coconino County Sheriff¿s Department, before going on to visit Bork. He then gets a call from Mrs. Grace Bork, saying that her husband has gone missing on his way to talk to Delos or returning from a visit to him. Sgt. Jim Chee, Leaphorn¿s protégé, has just returned from his Hawaii honeymoon after marrying Bernadette Manuelito, also a member of the tribal police force. Leaphorn is a little hesitant about enlisting the aid of the newly weds, but Bernadette is eager to get back to work and she and Chee make some official phone calls for their old boss. Is Jason Delos the ¿shape shifter¿ in this procedural which takes us on a tour of the Four Corners area, much of it on ¿Diné Bikéyah,¿ or Navajoland, which covers 27,000 square miles, bigger than West Virginia and 9 other states? In Navajo lore, a ¿shape shifter¿ or ¿skinwalker¿ is a creature who can change shape, gender or species to deceive his enemies or those pursuing him. It¿s a common theme in other cultures (see web site reference at the end of this review). Leaphorn visits Delos to check out the rug and to find out what happened to his friend Melvin Bork, another Western ¿country cop¿ he met at the FBI Academy in Virginia and who after his retirement as a cop became a private investigator in Flagstaff, the metropolis of northern Arizona. Investment banker Delos has a young manservant named Tommy Vang, a Hmong refugee from Laos whom Delos, supposedly a CIA agent, rescued. The Hmong are indigenous peoples who¿ve been hiding from the Vietnamese and Lao military ever since they helped the American forces in what has been called the ¿secret war¿ in Indochina in the 1960s and 1970s. Many of them have moved to the U.S., especially to Minnesota and Wisconsin. Since the plot is involved and vital to the story, I will go no further, other than to say that Joe Leaphorn combines the best of his Dineh (Navajo) heritage, as well as modern detection skills. Plus he¿s always ready for a good cup of coffee ¿ a man after my own heart! On a trip to California a few years ago via Interstate 40, I stopped for a coffee and a burger at a fast-food restaurant in Winslow, AZ (yes, the same town made famous in the Eagles¿ song ¿Take It Easy¿!). In the parking lot was a Dodge Ramcharger, I believe (it could have been a Ford Bronco) emblazoned with the lettering ¿N

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  • Posted December 9, 2008

    more from this reviewer

    a reviewer

    Though retired from the Navajo Tribal Police force, former Lieutenant Joe Leaphorn occasionally helps out his former peers when they ask him to investigate unusually difficult cases. This time it is Joe initiating the inquiry. --- He visits his friends newlyweds Jim Chee and Bernie Manuelito just back from their honeymoon to get their opinion on a cold case that he and his former FBI partner Mel Bork investigated. Mel sent Joe a page from a magazine Luxury Living that contained a picture with an ancient hand weaved rug that looks like the one that was reported destroyed in an arson fire at Totter¿s Trading Post. That blaze allegedly took the life of an FBI most wanted killer Totter recently was reported dead and buried in a VA cemetery, but that proved false. His efforts to contact Bork fail and soon Joe learns his friend has been murdered he assumes he is also on a diabolical killer¿s list to eliminate potential witnesses who could identify him. Jim and Bernie insist on joining Joe in going after the predator. --- Grandmaster Tony Hillerman is at his best with this excellent thriller that ties several seemingly unrelated subplots (beyond just what is above) into a cohesive cat and mouse tale that never slows down from the moment Joe meets with the honeymooners. The action-packed story line is filled with twists that will surprise readers yet are plausible as Joe struggles with Granny¿s stolen buckets, FBI, Vietnam War, arson, murder and being the rodent in a game orchestrated by a clever leopard who can change spots. The climax will add to Mr. Hillerman¿s reputation as one of the all time mystery writing greats. --- Harriet Klausner

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