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The Shape Shifter (Leaphorn & Chee #18)

3.97  ·  Rating Details ·  6,070 Ratings  ·  319 Reviews
Retirement has never sat well with former Navajo Tribal Police Lieutenant Joe Leaphorn. Now the ghosts of a still-unsolved case are returning to haunt him, reawakened by a photograph in a magazine spread of a one-of-a-kind Navajo rug, a priceless work of woven art that was supposedly destroyed in a suspicious fire many years earlier. The rug, commemorating one of the darke ...more
Paperback, 322 pages
Published January 2008 by Harper (first published November 21st 2006)
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Alice Agreed, it's appropriate. I know it's an old question, but I'll answer in case anyone else ever has a similar inquiry. I personally always liked old…moreAgreed, it's appropriate. I know it's an old question, but I'll answer in case anyone else ever has a similar inquiry. I personally always liked old detective (or lawyer) stories, but your child may find the pace to be slow.

However, the insight into Native American culture, as well as the nuts and bolts of detective work, and human nature, are compelling -- and then there is that lure & lore of the "shape shifter". Lots of new vocabulary words for the uninitiated too! (less)
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(showing 1-30 of 3,000)
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Mar 28, 2016 Carmen rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Mystery Fans
This is the last Navajo Mystery penned by Tony Hillerman.

It's also one of the most boring. Hillerman just goes on and on and on and on about old Navajo folklore - no, more than usual - and other subjects and it gets very tiresome. My eyes were glazing over at various times.

Chee and Bernie are barely in the novel, this is a Leaphorn novel almost exclusively. The old retired cop solving a cold case.

The case itself is interesting and wraps up nicely.

Louisa and Leaphorn make a kind of final decision
Nov 16, 2015 David rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Shape shifters, Navajo Tribal Police officers, Hillerman fans
You know how actors and people in some other fields get "lifetime achievement awards," and sometimes they get an Oscar not so much for the movie for which they are ostensibly getting the Oscar, but because they have been around a long time and everyone loves them and they're probably not gonna turn in any more real Oscar-winning performances, so let 'em have the shiny gold dude now?

That's kind of why I'm giving The Shape Shifter five stars.

I first encountered Tony Hillerman as a freshman in coll
Definitely a worthwhile experience to partake of Hillerman’s last book. Joe Leaphorn of the Navajo tribal police is retired, but he can’t resist poking around asking questions when he learns an acquaintance has died in a car wreck while investigating an insurance fraud case. Starting with an odd incident of stolen pine sap, one clue leads to another, and soon Joe is led to a seemingly unlikely theory that can only be resolved through a trip to a remote hunting camp for a dangerous confrontation ...more
Mar 24, 2016 Dagny rated it it was amazing
This is the last one of the series which was published before Hillerman's death. I didn't read it for a long time because I was saving it. The beginning started me wondering how much I would enjoy it, but I got very caught up with the story and it ended up being a great read for me.

Hillerman's daughter, Anne, is continuing the series with the characters. I'll be reading her first one in the near future.
Ivonne Rovira
Aug 09, 2013 Ivonne Rovira rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: only true-blue Joe Leaphorn fans
The Shape Shifter turns out to be a mixed bag. On the one hand, it's always a pleasure to reunite with the inestimable Joe Leaphorn, now retired from the Navaho Tribal Police and bored. On the other hand, readers will figure out what befell the clever but merciless fugitive Ray Shewnack before Leaphorn does. (view spoiler) ...more
Morris Graham
Before we start, I am a Hillerman fan. This was Tony Hillerman's last novel. He died at age 84, two years after this novel was done. A corespondent of his said that Hillerman reported he was 84, but felt 104. Another reported that his handwriting indictated he was ill. This book is not the quality of Hillerman's works. It is my opinion that he either started this, but felt too ill to do it right, or he started this and was unable to complete it and it was finished by a ghost writer. The author o ...more
I read this book in candlelight with the backdrop of howling wind and torrential rain. The blackout we had yesterday created the perfect setting for reading The Shape Shifter.

Skinwalkers, according to Navajo culture, are creatures that embody evil. They can change shape and form--and not for good purposes! So when retired Navajo Tribal Policemen Joe Leaphorn gets tangled up in a decades old mystery and finds himself face to face with a modern-day skinwalker, it takes everything he has to outwit
Christine Henry
Aug 18, 2009 Christine Henry rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Though I read this out of sequence in the series, which is uncharacteristic of me, I thought it was another wonderful and thought provoking story about values, morality, and how experiences shape a world view. There were two themes that I thought very intriguing: first, the theme of retirement, and what that stage of life means to some people. The way that US society sees retirement is somewhat contradictory: after a lifetime of work trying to improve skills and learn lessons, a person is left t ...more
David Cain
May 04, 2011 David Cain rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2011
This was an enjoyable book that didn't quite live up to its potential. Perhaps if it were twice as long, the additional detail would make up for the minor shortcomings sprinkled throughout the work's structure. Not so much of a mystery, but more of a suspense thriller. There were few misdirections and it was easy to guess how things were going to turn out relatively early in the narrative. The broad variety of plot elements (Indian weaving history, Navajo and Hmong religious beliefs, Vietnam war ...more
Tristan Macavery
I've generally enjoyed the stories of Joe Leaphorn, now retired by this particular volume. Leaphorn is a traditionalist in many ways, and Hillerman's creation of the character is inextricably interwoven with his (the character's) experiences. As such, delving into a Leaphorn tale is to explore yet another of the many facets of the policeman's history, his upbringing, his heritage, and the way that his mind works. For some, this involved process of storytelling seems slow, or even irrelevant to t ...more
Dec 03, 2013 Shannon rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
A great last story by Hillerman - can't wait to see what his daughter does as she picks up the series. This one is really a Leaphorn mystery and it's an interesting one involving a con man who finally gets caught after years and years of crimes. A ruthless man, he also has a Laotian 'man servant' that he 'employed' since the child was young (Vang). Throughout the story there's a lot of questions about all parties involved (except Leaphorn, of course) but it works out in the end.
Douglas Cook

First sentence
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.

Hillerman, Tony (2009-10-13). The Shape Shifter (Joe Leaphorn and Jim Chee) (Kindle Locations 60-61). HarperCollins. Kindle Edition.
Apr 05, 2016 Patrick rated it really liked it
This is only the second Hillerman book I've read. Recently, while traveling through the country where much of the action of this book (and most of the others in the Jim Chee/Joe Leaphorn series), I thought it was time to try a second novel. Since then, I purchased three more of his crime books.
I think I'm hooked.
Tony Hillerman (who passed away several years ago) writes about the country he loves. The Four Corners region. His two detectives are both Native American and they bring a very differen
May 28, 2015 Amy rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Had a hard time getting into this one.
Feb 01, 2014 Richard rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: crime, 2014
The Shape Shifter by Tony Hillerman

I've been a fan of Tony Hillerman's stories for over a decade. He's written a lot of entertaining yarns, but the titles have a similarity that makes it a challenge for me to remember which one was the first I read. Each one centers on a primary mystery, but there's also a subplot about a smaller case that eventually ties in, one way or another, with the main adventure. Throughout the novels the main characters, Lieutenant Joe Leaphorn and Officer (rank dependen
Kara Jorges
Dec 19, 2012 Kara Jorges rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
When retired Lieutenant Joe Leaphorn, formerly of the Navajo Tribal Police, gets a package from an old acquaintance containing a magazine photo of an old Navajo rug that had supposedly burned in a fire 25 years earlier, he gets pulled into quite a mystery. Leaphorn remembers the rug from when it hung in a gallery at Totter’s Trading Post, before the place burned to the ground in a fire carelessly started by Totter’s assistant when he fell asleep with a lit cigarette. The assistant’s badly burned ...more
Nov 07, 2015 Dale rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Despite some flaws, still a strong story (and a possible explanation for the flaws- as a literary device...)

Published by Harper in November of 2006.

There are numerous flaws in Hillerman's newest book, including a confusing, often rambling first 100 pages or so. However, at about the halfway point in the book it catches some traction and moves forward with purpose and speed and the last half of the book reminds me of the Hillerman of old.

For those readers who are disappointed with this one, migh
BIPL Reads
Jan 19, 2012 BIPL Reads rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: guest-reviews
The Shape Shifter by Tony Hillerman is the best book I have read in a long time. The story is a mystery full of so many twists that it is almost impossible to stop reading. I would definitely give this book an A+! The Shape Shifter is a mystery based on an old tale of the Navajo tribe. They believe in this organism called the “shape shifter” and this thing can change its physical appearance into any living organism on the earth. In this book Perkins, an ex CIA member, is a master-mind criminal w ...more
Jan 28, 2012 JBradford rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I was so happy with the Hillerman novel that I read last week that it was a real delight when I took that back to the library to discover a new one (although it was published in 2006) on the Recent additions shelf, and I grabbed it. This one has the same main characters as the other, except that it is approximately three novels later in the sequence. Jim Chee and Bernie have just come back from their honeymoon and Joe Leaphorn proposes (again) to Professor Louis Bourbonette, but the basis of the ...more
Jul 17, 2009 TBML rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Mar 07, 2012 Brianna rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Anyone interested in crime, murder mysteries, Native American culture
In high school I was basically obsessed with Tony Hillerman books. Not really sure why, but I was. I tried to read all of his books in my school's library. The only thing I didn't like what I couldn't really figure out the order of the books, and so I read them out of order.
These books are great. They are from a point of view from a cop who is caught between two words: Navajo and white. He treads back and forth between those lines, trying to find a balance while solving murders.
Tony Hillerman
Denniger Bolton
Apr 17, 2013 Denniger Bolton rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I've read every one of Tony Hillerman's novels. If you've read one or more of his books you know they are set in New Mexico and Arizona, and for the most part cover the geographical area of the Navajo Indian Reservation. The heroes are Lt. Joe Leaphorn and Sergeant Jim Chee of the Navajo Tribal Police. Sometimes Hillerman has Leaphorn, sometimes it's Chee, and other novels such as this one, he has both men.

Jim, a full time cop, part time shaman, who we have followed since he was an young officer
Doug Clark
Nov 06, 2012 Doug Clark rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Tony Hillerman’s latest Navajo mystery, The Shape Shifter, continues his tradition of writing interesting mysteries leavened with a lesson in the Navajo culture and religion. Generally, these novels feature both the now-retired Lt. Joe Leaphorn and Sgt. Jim Chee. And although Jim Chee and his new wife, Bernie Manuelito Chee, make an appearance, it’s mainly as an audience for the story Joe Leaphorn has to tell.

The story involves a double murder (the Handys) that occurred many years before. Three
Christopher Murphy
Briefly: the Navajo Mysteries saga by Tony Hillerman concerns the investigations of crimes (usually murders) on the Navajo reservation by the tribal police. The books are very well written and plotted, but their joy is really in the cultural details. The traditions, both past and present, of the Navajo people are highlighted in the works, and in fact most of the murders are either motivated by something uniquely cultural; or the method of solving the crimes involves aspects of said culture. So t ...more
Mitch Duckworth
Because I love the four-corners region of the country, and because I relate to many aspects of some the Native American cultures who inhabited the region historically, and those who remain today, I wanted to read another Tony Hillerman novel. The only other I’ve read was long ago and far away; it’s not even listed among my Books Read list because I can remember nothing about it except that I liked it reasonably well. The Shape Shifter is #18 in his Navajo Mysteries series, and the one I read yea ...more
Clark Hallman
Aug 31, 2012 Clark Hallman rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: crime
The Shape Shifter, by Tony Hillerman, is a very enjoyable Leaphorm and Chee novel. In fact it may be my favorite Hillerman book. Joe Leaphorn is now retired the Jim Chee and Bernie Manuelito have just returned from their honeymoon. Leaphorn receives a letter from a police officer he had worked a case with long ago when he was a new law officer. In the envelope is page from Luxury Living magazine containing a photograph of a tale-teller rug hanging on the wall of a fashionable home in Flagstaff. ...more
Jan 25, 2012 Sarah rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
So, maybe I would've liked this book better if I had read all 17 that came before it. That being said, I found the mystery aspect to be lackluster and not very thrilling. Maybe that's how they all are, but I really wasn't drawn in by any of the characterizations.

My favorite aspect of the book is the description of the atmosphere and mystique of the Southwest. I just love the landscape there and Hillerman does an excellent job transporting me to this place; he does it with such skill that it seem
Orville Jenkins
Dec 27, 2014 Orville Jenkins rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Tony Hillerman brings us another thoughtful, challenging murder mystery set in the Navajo Nation, filled with the mystical Navajo cultural atmosphere. I was first introduced to Tony Hillerman in 2009, when I received a complimentary audiobook from my hotel while traveling. I was fascinated with the Navajo context and the rich Indian culture Hillerman wove into the murder mystery.

I bought this hardcover of a more recent novel and was quickly enveloped again in the Navajo context and a puzzling mu
Jul 19, 2015 Silvio111 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This one is memorable because of a very energetic, newly-retired (ha!) Jim Leaphorn, and a dearth of the little-missed Louisa Bourbonette for whom I harbor a probably undeserved disaffection.

It is also memorable because I think this is the ONLY book where Hillerman acknowledges to his readers that Joe Leaphorn still misses his late wife Emma and knows that Louisa cannot hold a candle to his beautiful, strong, and insightful wife.

Thank you, Tony Hillerman. What took you so long?

To her credit, Lou
I like Tony Hillerman’s work -- it is great to pick up and just relax with for a few hours. That being said “The Shape Shifter,” Hillerman’s last book, does not meet his standard. The mystery is easy to figure out, the reoccurring characters seem to be missing some of their usual charm, and the new characters (especially Tommy Vang) are incredibly flat and undeveloped, almost to be the point of being stereotypes or caricatures. It is too bad that Hillerman’s career ended with this weak note, but ...more
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Tony Hillerman, who was born in Sacred Heart, Oklahoma, was a decorated combat veteran from World War II, serving as a mortarman in the 103rd Infantry Division and earning the Silver Star, the Bronze Star, and a Purple Heart. Later, he worked as a journalist from 1948 to 1962. Then he earned a Masters degree and taught journalism from 1966 to 1987 at the University of New Mexico in Albuquerque, wh ...more
More about Tony Hillerman...

Other Books in the Series

Leaphorn & Chee (1 - 10 of 21 books)
  • The Blessing Way (Leaphorn & Chee, #1)
  • Dance Hall of the Dead (Leaphorn & Chee, #2)
  • Listening Woman (Leaphorn & Chee, #3)
  • People of Darkness (Leaphorn & Chee, #4)
  • The Dark Wind (Leaphorn & Chee, #5)
  • The Ghostway (Leaphorn & Chee, #6)
  • Skinwalkers (Leaphorn & Chee, #7)
  • A Thief of Time (Leaphorn & Chee, #8)
  • Talking God (Leaphorn & Chee, #9)
  • Coyote Waits (Leaphorn & Chee, #10)

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“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” 0 likes
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