The Fallen Man is one of Tony Hillerman's Chee/Leaphorn mysteries. This one is the 12th, published in 1996. I always enjoy these and am working my way through the entire series.
from the dust jacket:
Legions of devotees will cheer the return of Joe Leaphorn and Jim Chee in Tony Hillerman's most intricate and atmospheric novel yet. The Navajo policemen whose exploits are now published in sixteen languages are brought together by the need to know how a man met his death on Ship Rock, almost seventeen hundred feet above the desert floor. Why had he climbed this mountain sacred to Navajos and why had he been killed there -or, even worse, left to die a lonely death?
The fallen man lay sprawled on a ledge under the peak of Ship Rock mountain for eleven years - visited only by the ravens that had picked his bones clean and scattered his rock-climbing gear. That peaceful period ended, appropriately, on Halloween, when a climbing party stumbled upon his bones and began a chain of events that would ultimately link Leaphorn and Chee.
At Canyon de Chelly, three hundred miles across the Navajo reservation, a sniper on the rim shoots an old canyon guide who had always walked the pollen path in peace.
At his home in Window Rock, Joe Leaphorn, newly retired from the Navajo Tribal Police, connects skeleton and sniper and remembers an old puzzle he could never solve.
In Washington, the trustee of a mining mogul's estate learns of the skeleton and makes Leaphorn an offer.
In his office at Shiprock, Acting Lieutenant Jim Chee is too busy with paperwork and cattle thefts to take much interest in the case -until he learns the woman he will soon marry is more interested than he thinks she should be.
As Chee and Leaphorn join to investigate why the fallen man fell, they set off across the high desert landscape of the Navajo reservation and into the lives of a rookie cop who is smarter than anyone thinks, a lonely woman who takes up her father's hobby of watching a mountain, a cattle-brand inspector who demonstrates that cows are even more curious than cats, a banker who knows her depositors' private lives as well as their balance sheets, a widow who loves one man too many, and the people who defy death on the towering cliffs of a sacred peak.
Most important, through the memory of those who had known him emerges an understanding of the fallen man himself -a man who had been given everything and found that it was not enough.
The Fallen Man is replete with Hillerman trademarks -ingeniously intricate plotting, splendid evocations of the Southwest's harsh beauty, insights into a venerable culture, and subtly poignant characterizations.
The Navajo culture that had produced Acting Lieutenant Jim Chee had taught him the power of word and of thought. Western metaphysicians might argue that language and imagination are products of reality. But in their own migrations out of Mongolia and over the icy Bering Strait, the Navajos brought with them a much older Asian philosophy. Thoughts, and words that spring from them, bend the individual's reality. To speak of death is to invite it. To think of sorrow is to produce it. He would think of his duties instead of his love.
Kirkus Reviews says his fans "will likely find it irresistible." The LA Times concludes, "In "The Fallen Man," Hillerman has constructed one of his more intricate plots and one of his more satisfying novels." EW gives it an A-.
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)
Thief of Time (1988)
Talking God (1989)
Coyote Waits (1990)
Sacred Clowns (1993)
The Sinister Pig (2003)