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by Tony Hillerman
HarperTorch, October 2001
320 pages
ISBN: 0061000175

Buy in the UK | Buy in Canada

Reviewing the first novel of an esteemed and respected author who has now published over seventeen books is a strange task; particularly when the same novel has recently debuted as a miniseries on television. Having never read Tony Hillerman, but having read many reviews and interviews with him, I am familiar enough with his work to write about him, one would suppose, but at the same time, it is also daunting. Hillerman has legions of fans; I am merely a novice novelist getting my start in the business. What if I HATE a book that is beloved by millions? Do I dare say that the emperor has no clothing from my line of sight? And just who am I to criticize Hillerman?

Fortunately, as I opened the book and started to read, I found myself beginning to understand the Hillerman phenomenon. SKINWALKERS, for those few of you who may not have read it, is the first of the Chee-Leaphorn mysteries, set on the Navajo reservation. The book opens with three shots being blasted through the thin skin of Chee's trailer. There have been three mysterious deaths, seemingly unlinked, on the reservation in the past few months; but both Chee and his boss, Joe Leaphorn, are convinced somehow the deaths are all linked together. But why the attack on Chee? Slowly but surely, Leaphorn and Chee dig into the lives of the three victims, treading a dangerous tightrope of superstition and fear, until they uncover the truth.

SKINWALKERS is a fine mystery; the suspense gradually builds until the reader cannot help but turn the page, regardless of the time. Hillerman is a master of character, scene, and plot--there is no question about that. But what makes SKINWALKERS so outstanding, for me, is that it takes the reader inside the world of the Navajo reservation--the folklore, the history, the superstition, the poverty and the despair that are all a part of the native American experience in the present day.

And now I have sixteen more Hillermans to read......hurray! I love finding a new favorite author.

Reviewed by Greg Herren, February 2003

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Contact: Yvonne Klein (ymk@reviewingtheevidence.com)

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