A high school shop teacher is killed at school, and a sacred clown is savagely murdered while performing in a Pueblo ceremony. Two Navajo tribal police officers, Lieutenant Joe Leaphorn and Officer Jim Chee, at times working at odds, must sort through a host of pieces before the puzzle can be solved; tribal clans and politics, toxic dump lobbyists, an invaluable antique walking stick, and a missing teenager must all be scrutinized. The author of this fast-paced, well-researched work is a past president of the Mystery Writers of America. Reader Gil Silverbird, an accomplished Navajo singer and actor, performs all roles superbly. Because it's so well crafted, Sacred Clowns should appeal to a much larger audience than the average mystery. For most collections.-- James Dudley, Copiague, N.Y.
It's difficult to find new superlatives to describe Hillerman's work. Everything he writes is an instant best-seller, and Hillerman himself is revered by colleagues and fans alike. The secrets of his success are many: his unique and charismatic characters; his authentic descriptions of Native American customs and social structures; his clever, catchy plots; and the genuine warmth and appeal of his writing. And all those attributes are certainly present in his latest novel, which features Navaho tribal policemen Joe Leaphorn and Jim Chee. Unorthodox maverick Chee hates detail, solves crimes using flashes of intuition and leaps of logic, and works best solo. Leaphorn is the yin to Chee's yang, attacking tough cases with hard work, persistence, and logic--playing strictly by the book. But with a heavy caseload (including two murder cases, a hit-and-run accident, a possible bribery and corruption scandal within the tribe, and a counterfeit racket involving sacred tribal artifacts) and some tricky personal problems (a love match with a lady lawyer for Chee, a trip to China with a female professor for Leaphorn), the two quickly learn the importance of understanding and teamwork. A surefire success, "Sacred Clowns" is Hillerman at his dazzling best. Stock up--there'll be a big demand long before the book hits the shelves.
Navajo Detective Jim Chee, working now for Lt. Joe Leaphorn's two-man Special Investigations Office, has followed Delmar Kanitewa, a runaway student who may know something about the murder of shop- teacher Eric Dorsey, to the Tano Pueblo for a ceremony of koshares, sacred clowns, only to see it interrupted by a second murder. The boy, who's exonerated by Chee's own eyes, has vanished again, leaving the mystery of how the two murders are connectedand (since this is one of Hillerman's most intricately plotted stories) of just how to interpret the eventual linkup: a copy of the Lincoln Cane, a century- old tribal gift, that Dorsey had made. There's also time for the reopening of an unsolved hit-and-run and for accusations that Horse Mesa Councilman Jimmy Chester is taking bribes to legalize a toxic- waste dump inside a reservation mine. The byplay between prickly Leaphorn and spiritual Chee; Chee's sobering reflections on Navajo and white people's justice; problem- strewn new romantic intrigues for both heroesall of these make this not only a masterful novel in its own right, but an object lesson in how to develop an outstanding series.