Sacred Clowns (Navajo Mysteries, #11)
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Sacred Clowns (Navajo Mysteries #11)

3.96 of 5 stars 3.96  ·  rating details  ·  4,739 ratings  ·  109 reviews
During a kachina ceremony at the Tano Pueblo, the antics of a dancing koshare fill the air with tension. Moments later, the clown is found bludgeoned to death, in the same manner a reservation schoolteacher was killed only days before.

Officer Jim Chee and Lieutenant Joe Leaphorn believe that answers lie in the sacred clown's final cryptic message to the Tano people. But to...more
Paperback, 320 pages
Published February 4th 2003 by Harper Perennial (first published April 1st 1992)
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The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes by Arthur Conan DoyleAnd Then There Were None by Agatha ChristieDeath on the Nile by Agatha ChristieMurder on the Orient Express by Agatha ChristieOne for the Money by Janet Evanovich
Best Detective/Mystery Series
139th out of 1,189 books — 1,396 voters
A Thief of Time by Tony HillermanSkinwalkers by Tony HillermanThe Blessing Way by Tony HillermanDance Hall of the Dead by Tony HillermanTalking God by Tony Hillerman
Native American Detectives
12th out of 62 books — 53 voters

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Lewis Weinstein
Total immersion in the unique and fascinating culture of our Indian southwest. Strong but imperfect characters struggling with moral issues. The kind of romantic interactions I like to read about (and write about ... and live). And, oh yes, an excellent detective story. Why did I wait so long between Hillerman novels?
Sacred Clowns is an interesting, though not great mystery. Its chief strengths lay in Hillerman's ability to weave Navajo culture into a story without being preachy or even overly instructive. It is a decent enough story, but its resolution (especially re: the hit and run driver) left me feeling as if justice and the law, at least as far as one officer was concerned, was not really as important as his personal religious feelings regarding the restoration of harmony, etc.

Now, I've got to do some...more
Jun 17, 2007 Brian rated it 4 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: cowboys and indians
The winter of 2007 is a shaman's curse/a ravenous and cruel apparition/stalking mesas and piñon forests/on the high desert of New Mexico/The wind arises out of the Northwest/bringing pain and hunger/stealing color, warmth, and lives/In the hogan we burn pine and cedar/day and night/melt snow for drinking water/ration the last of the mutton stew and coffee/Stock tanks are frozen solid/Animals die huddled together in ravines/Crystalline etchings on ice and window glass/mock our frailty/with useles...more
This was the first Tony Hillerman book that I read. Since then I have read almost every book that he has written. I really enjoy the characters, plots, and settings that Hillerman has created. His stories revolve around a tribal police officer, Jim Chee, and a detective, Joe Leaphorn. Jim and Joe work together to solve murders, robberies and other mysteries that come up on the Navajo reservation. Hillerman writes primarily about the 4 corners area of the United States and mixes in all kinds of I...more
Jul 20, 2012 Richard rated it 4 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: anyone interested in Native Americans and their culture; mystery lovers.
Recommended to Richard by: I read all his work.
The late Mr. Hillerman really knew how to tell a story. I miss his output.

From his home base in Albuquerque, he takes all these disparate parts, spreads them all over the four corners area and has his characters running all over the place making unlikely links to all the crimes.

Is a joy to watch the Native American police work out the logic and motives behind the murders and theft exactly like Hercule Poirot.

This is the third in a long list of both fiction and non-fiction that award-winning Mr....more
Here's what I like about Hillerman: Navajo metaphysics and spirituality, unique settings, minor historical accounts, descriptions of gorgeous landscapes, broadlines plotting. The plotting was pretty intricate on this one but also just intricate enough that I didn't care to try to track down the threads in my head. I like his main two characters and - as Scott described - the evolution of their relationship.
What I struggle with: thin and uneven story-telling, predictable outcomes on minor story...more
Even though I'm hitting the Very Good 4 stars out of 5 button for my rating, I'd really like to give Tony Hillerman's "Sacred Clowns" 3-1/2 stars. Yes, everything's there in good Hillerman fashion: Leaphorn and Chee each pulling on their own end of an elephant and finally meeting up in the middle, wonderful settings, nice descriptions, bad guys getting what's coming to them, etc.. But, for my taste's, Hillerman has added just to much personal pain to Jim Chee's life. From the moment the book sta...more
Didn't like this one as much. For some reason I kept getting turned around and didn't follow well. I do like that Hillerman has Chee and Leaphorn working together but not really working together. I really liked how Chee handled the moral/ethical dilemma regarding the hit/run driver and the Navajo way of approaching it and the justice system's approach. I did not like how Chee and Leaphorn seemd to be turning into girls with their romantic relationships...pfffttttt...
Amber Foxx

The beauty of this series is that it’s so much more than a set of detective stories. Hillerman, in his memoir Seldom Disappointed, tells how he first became fascinated by Navajo culture. Wounded toward the end of WWII, he was waiting in a hospital in Europe to be sent home, one of few soldiers were left. He made friends with a fellow patient, Navajo man, who told him about the ceremony his family would arrange for him when he got home, the Enemy Way. Its healing purpose was to bring warriors bac...more
Gerald Kinro
A White woodshop teacher is beaten to death in his classroom; a student is missing, and the boy’s unclel, a koshare or sacred clown in a Kachina dance is stabbed to death immediately after the ceremony; an old man is a victim of a hit and run. With their conflicting styles, our duo of Lieutenant Joe Leaphorn and Officer Jim solve these crimes together, overcoming not only the challenges of working with limited facilities, but that of jurisdiction authority.

Typical of Hillerman, the book is rich...more
Moira Russell
This wasn't bad -- I read it to distract myself while being seriously ill, and it worked quite well. The plot seemed flimsier than in other Hillerman books, altho I really liked the cultural elements, especially the focus on Chee (and Janet). Granted I did not read it terribly carefully (at one point my cat knocked the paperback off the bed after I'd read myself to sleep, and when I picked it back up I all unknowingly skipped about forty pages and found myself thinking "I don't remember Hillerma...more
Mar 07, 2012 Brianna rated it 4 of 5 stars
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...more
In his biography "Seldom Disappointed," Tony Hillerman says this book,
"Sacred Clowns," was his breakthrough book. It unites Joe Leaphorn and Jim
Chee, two Navajo policemen with very different ways of solving crimes.

You are attending a Pueblo religious ceremony as the book opens, and your
viewpoint is the roof of a structure above the ceremony. You're there with
Chee and a young Navajo woman who has moved home after years away as a DC

One of the features of the ceremony is the appearance of a...more
Susan Peine
I've enjoyed getting to know the characters of Jim Chee and Lt. Leaphorn. But the main reason that I'm attracted to these books is the's quite literally in my backyard. The location of all three books I've read so far cover a huge portion of the Navajo Reservation (or Navajo Nation, as the locals refer to it)...some places I see every day, some places I've already visited, and some I'll check out once the mud dries back into hard soil, making rural roads passable again!

It's also int...more
"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 tum...more
My admiration for Hillerman just grows and grows.

I'm a passionate reader of mysteries. Whenever there is a "back story" I read from the beginning.

Sacred Clowns is Hillerman's 7th and I'm struck by how the quality of his writing, the quality of his plot development and resolution and his ability to seamlessly weave a lesson in Indian philosophy and daily life into the story without making this non-fiction attempting to be fiction - well, his growth was noteworthy.

About this book, in particular,...more
Again Hillerman writes a book hard to put down. It's been a long time since I last read him and now I remember why I did. The Indian cultures have been varied and unknown to me. After reading his books I have a better idea of how different they all are, and that's a good thing.The mystery seemed very esoteric and unsolvable, yet it was. Delightfully so. Loved his tight plotting and characterizations.
Morris Graham
Sacred Clowns examines both the Navajo and Hopi cultural and religeons, steeping the murder mystery in a rich cultural tapestry that Hillerman was known for. As always, the story involves the human elements of both Chee and Leaphorn, their love lives and their personal struggles. This has it all.. mystery, politics, history, intrigue, and yes, two murders to solve.
Susan Jo Grassi
Another winner from one of my favorite authors. I have always been fascinated by Native American culture and history so when I found an author who could give you information on both while turning out a well done mystery, I was hooked. I have spent a lot of time in the four-corners area so I am familiar with the landscape and the beauty of it. Add to that the PBS Mystery Theater productions of three of the previous books in the early 2000 with two of my favorite actors in the lead roles, Wes Stud...more
As a mystery it is quite good, with some interesting twists, especially at the end. The most interesting part is a glimpse into Navajo culture and world view. At one point the Navajo cop has to make a choice between "doing his duty as a cop" (serving restitution which ends up being punitive in this case) and the Navajo sense of justice (similar to what the Quakers would label "restorative justice".) I also liked the commentary on the old shamans who are rigid about rituals and the younger genera...more
Marie Fouhey
One of the best of the series. It's amazing the way Hillerman weaves together seemingly unrelated problems. The Navajo culture and mythology permeate the books. It's hard to believe he' not at all a Navajo although I think they made him an honorary one.
Thoroughly enjoyable visit to Navajo territory with Lt. Joe Leaphorn and Officer Jim Chee, who is now working in a small office for special crimes as Leaphorn's assistant. Still wary of each other, the two men have a couple of seemingly unrelated murders on their hands--or at least partially on their hands; technically the FBI is handling one of the cases. A teenaged boy has also disappeared from his boarding school, and Chee is virtually promised promotion by Leaphorn...IF he can solve a hit-an...more
Joe White
I would class this book in the older Hillerman series. It might be one of his best to compare to a Sherlock Holmes story - just move the date up by 90 years and move the location from London to northern New Mexico and Arizona, with personalities adapted to the locale. The final wrap up of the main mystery on the last few pages could have had a smoother transition a little sooner, but the reconciliations to the events finally neatly fit.
Jim Chee as a character had a fairly good introduction with...more
Again, totally reading these out of order. Or should I say, re-reading them, as I read most if not all of them in my early 20s.

More than the mystery in this one, I liked the insight into the cultural view - perhaps more so in this one than in the others, I should say, because all of Hillerman's books are insightful, culturally.

I like a book where the characters are complex, layered; and I like when they have to make a choice between two right things which have varying degrees of "rightness". On...more
J. Mark
Oct 20, 2007 J. Mark rated it 5 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: mystery fans, fans of New Mexico, readers interested in a compelling take on Native American culture
Shelves: mystery
My first Hillerman. I read it on a drive through New Mexico and I've been hooked ever since. Hillerman doesn't write weighty or even deep mysteries, but that's not what I go to mysteries for. His writing is lean and clear. You like his heroes, you often even like (at least understand) his villains. The best thing I could say about any mystery is true for every Hillerman I have read (about 15 of them by now); every book has a compelling set-up, and, by the end of the usually very short first chap...more
Navajo policeman Joe Leaphorn is busy trying to track down several crime incidents at one time and is bringing Officer Chee in to see how he works as a partner. Poor officer Chee is infatuated with Janet who seems to always invite someone else along when he'd really like to just spend quality time with her. Meanwhile, things go awry as officer Chee always seems to be in the wrong place at the wrong time which makes him have to work twice as hard to impress Joe Leaphorn, who seems to have an easy...more
I really enjoy the characters, plots, and settings that Hillerman has created. His stories revolve around a tribal police officer, Jim Chee, and a detective, Joe Leaphorn. Jim and Joe work together to solve murders, robberies and other mysteries that come up on the Navajo reservation. Hillerman writes primarily about the 4 corners area of the United States and mixes in all kinds of Indian lore. I have always been partial to the western United States and I enjoy reading good mysteries. Hillerman...more
We listened to an audio book version of this story. As I type this, two days later, it is Tony Hillerman's birthday. I have probably read most of the Leaphorn-Chee books by now, and always enjoy them. It is good to get a feel for the Native American experience, and read descriptions of the scenery. At our age, we may, or may not, get to see this part of the country. This is the beginning of the Louise B section of Joe Leaphorn's life, following the death of his beloved wife. The clowns are chara...more
This is the first Hillerman that I've read, he comes highly recommended by quite a few people. I've had this particular book on my shelf for quite a while and have been putting it off (I'm not sure why). It took me a little bit to get into it, but once I did, I did enjoy it. I was a quick and easy read, and it certainly feels like there are other books in the series relating to the main characters (verified via Wikipedia, there are).

One negative I thought was the introduction of the 'romatic' e...more
Bonnie Irwin
Excellent narrative with many interwoven themes: love, mystery, Navajo clans, Navajo relationships with other groups, and Lincoln!
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Sacred Clowns - Book Discussion 9 13 Jul 12, 2014 03:50PM  
  • The Dream Stalker (Wind River Reservation, #3)
  • Spider Woman's Daughter (Navajo Mysteries, #19)
  • Blackening Song (Ella Clah, #1)
  • The Shaman's Bones (Charlie Moon, #3)
  • Cry Dance
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...
The Blessing Way (Navajo Mysteries, #1) Skinwalkers (Navajo Mysteries, #7) A Thief of Time (Navajo Mysteries, #8) Listening Woman (Navajo Mysteries, #3) Dance Hall of the Dead (Navajo Mysteries, #2)

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