Thursday, January 28, 2016

Sacred Clowns

Sacred Clowns is one of the Leaphorn/Chee mysteries by Tony Hillerman. This 1993 novel is 11th in this remarkable series. The characters have real depth, and the plots are interesting -even fascinating- and include subplots involving both Navajo culture and tradition and the private lives of Chee and Leaphorn. I can't recommend these books highly enough. There have been 4 film adaptations, and I like all of them:
The Dark Wind (1991)
Skinwalkers (2002)
Coyote Waits (2003)
A Thief of Time (2004)
from the dust jacket:
Hillerman's long-awaited new novel shows how amply he deserves such high praise, as it reunites Navajo Tribal Policemen Joe Leaphorn and Jim Chee in an effort to unravel a treacherous web of tribal politics and murder.

Yesterday a teacher was killed at a mission school on the Navajo Reservation, but today in the Tano Indian pueblo murder seems inconceivable as a tribal ceremony unfolds. The sacred kachinas have danced into the ancient plaza, and the koshare in their grotesque disguises have tumbled down from the rooftops to ape the foolishness of humankind. At first, the crowd welcomes this troupe of sacred clowns with laughter. But something in one clown's red wagon hushes the crowd. And then murder strikes at Tano.

To Officer Chee and Lieutenant Leaphorn, now working as an uneasy team, the solution to the killing at the mission school seems straightforward, and the death at Tano seems to be out of their jurisdiction. But the odd behavior of a runaway student connects the two crimes and shows that neither is what it seems. Chee and Leaphorn's search for the truth propels them into a realm where battles as old as humanity's foibles and as new as its high technology are fought to the death.

Sacred Clowns brims with subtly drawn personalities, revealing glimpses into proud, ancient cultures, crystalline evocations of the Southwest's stark beauty, and taut yet lyrical prose. It is, simply, Tony Hillerman at his best.
The Independent closes a positive review by saying this of the series: "These are tales of classic restraint, ingeniously plotted, beautifully written, marvellously rewarding; the man is a master." EW has good things to say. Kirkus Reviews concludes by calling the book "not only a masterful novel in its own right, but an object lesson in how to develop an outstanding series."

I've read the following books by this author:
The Blessing Way (1970)
Dance Hall of the Dead (1973)
People of Darkness (1980)
The Dark Wind (1982)
The Ghostway (1984)
Skinwalkers (1986)
Thief of Time (1988)
Talking God (1989)
Coyote Waits (1990)
The Sinister Pig (2003)


  1. I always enjoy seeing your latest Hillerman novel you share with us. These are turning out to be wonderful mysteries, and I've started reading Skinwalkers, which I got at the library. Thanks for sharing these with us.

    1. I'm glad you like them :) We have managed to get them all here, so I can re-read them once I'm done reading them all the first time.

  2. I've read a few of the books in this series, but not this one. I totally agree with you- they are really well written and quite rich with layers. I want to read some more of this series this year, and I am glad you wrote a post about them. :)

    1. I'm glad they seem to still be so popular. I hope they stay in print forever :)

  3. I'm a fan of the series too but think I missed this one. I really need to go through my reading list and see what I read and what I missed. That happens to me when I don't read a series in order

    1. I end up making lists of the series books I have, because when I'm in the bookstore I can't remember which ones I haven't read. It happens to me even when I'm reading them in order lol