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Blackening Song (Ella Clah #1)

3.93  ·  Rating Details ·  813 Ratings  ·  52 Reviews
Blackening Song is the debut of Navajo FBI agent Ella Clah, who returns to the reservation to investigate the murder of her father, a minister. The ritual nature of the killing makes Ella's brother, a medicine man, the prime suspect. Without cooperation from the tribe, the FBI, or the local police, Ella must plumb the depths of the struggle between traditionalist and moder ...more
Paperback, 384 pages
Published October 9th 2001 by Forge Books (first published 1995)
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Sep 11, 2009 Shomeret rated it it was amazing
While I respect Tony Hillerman, his perspective had been that of an observer. The Ella Clah series feels like a participant viewpoint. We are on the reservation. We are experiencing the family life of Ella Clah. We discover her history in this novel and how her family incorporates different approaches to living as a Native American in contemporary society. The events in Blackening Song change Ella's life and have tremendous dramatic impact.
Jan 19, 2013 Stefanie rated it really liked it
Good start to a mystery series. What caught my eye was the picture on the spine of another Ella Clah mystery when I was at my local library. After reading the blurb about the series on the inside cover I knew I must read the entire series. The storyline was good and Ella Clah was interesting for a cop type mystery series (all the others I have read (Craig Johnson, Kathy Reichs, Sandi Ault, Nevada Barr), don't really seem to focus on the main character's heritage. Although to be fair, the other s ...more
Jul 07, 2012 Gail rated it it was amazing
Shelves: mysteries
Ella Clah is a young FBI agent, having left the Navajo Reservation for college and law enforcement. She receives a phone call that her father has been ritually murdered. When she returns home she learns that in the eyes of the FBI, her brother is the chief suspect. Ella disobeys direct orders to seek the truth and learn of her father's murder. This is a complex, action packed mystery that puts the traditional Navajo ways against the progressive. Mysticism, intuition and custom fight with Ella as ...more
Nancy Wilson
Oct 15, 2015 Nancy Wilson rated it really liked it
Finally got through a book by Aimee Thurlo. I find Native American beliefs fascinating. Their explanations of the why and how are so much more entertaining and colorful than what the other races/religions came up with. And they seem to not be offended by the existence of others. This book sets up the characters for the rest of the series so there is a lot of background. It also solves the horrific murder of Ella's father. The stage is set.
Mar 04, 2014 Chris rated it liked it
Shelves: mystery-4corners
I read the latest one (#17) and now the first in the series. I find the principal character, Ella, compelling and interesting but the story goes on too long. You just want it to end. I'll have to read more to see if we can have a plot without skinwalkers.
Mar 14, 2017 Kalima rated it liked it
As a long-time fan of Tony Hillerman, I was interested in this series set on the Navajo reservation and surrounding area. It doesn't have the grace of the Hillerman novels which I find almost mesmerizing, but it is a good tale, competently told. The main character was a little too one-pointed, I thought, and the book slowed down for me in the middle - I actually skipped some pages -- but all in all I am interested to see where the next book in the series leads.
Ray York
Dec 02, 2016 Ray York rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Ella Clah

First one I have and I did enjoy it very much. Different From Tony Hillerman books in that this was a little more graphic description of some of the violence, not unusual these days.
Sep 04, 2013 Lisa rated it it was ok
Recommends it for: no one
Full disclosure: I only got to the beginning of Chapter 4. And usually I don't review books I can't finish. If I don't like a book after the first 10-20%, then I don't finish it, but I don't normally write a review because on some level I don't think that's fair to the author(s).

BUT in the case of Blackening Song I am making an exception. I had read some good reviews from a mystery group and I love Tony Hillerman books, so I was looking forward to reading this book. And the first chapter was pr
Mar 21, 2016 Alan rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: mystery
Something about Tony Hillerman's writing has never quite sat well with me, so I was pleased to find another pair of writers who had tried to write about crime on the Reservation. While I would not call Ella Clah's debut outstanding, I will consider trying other books by the Thurlo's (unfortunately Aimee has passed, and David remains writing).

The murder of Ella's father forces draws the FBI special agent back to a place she has avoided. Ella has felt torn between her father's decision to become a
Dec 18, 2016 Stephanross rated it really liked it
Tony Hillerman originally captivated me with the allure of the Four Corners country and the literary version of Navaho culture and spirituality. Thurlo is the closest I've found to a Hillerman heir. The plot of Blackening Song is adequately intricate to keep the thoughtful reader interested. The characters are interesting, though I wish Thurlo would trust her descriptions of their feelings and actions more and describe their motivations less. I could wish for a bit more wit in the dialogue. But ...more
2.5 stars.

This is the first book in a long series about a female Navajo FBI agent who is called back to the reservation (in New Mexico?). Others may not be bothered by the endless references to supernatural and/or magic disputes between at least two kinds of Native Americans, and both in tension against Christianity among Native Americans on the same reservation.

For me, it was too much Paranormal stuff.

I prefer the series by Margaret Coel about a female Navajo lawyer who tries to help people of
Sep 03, 2015 Kelly rated it liked it
The first book in a long series set on a Navajo Indian tribe. Ellah Clah is a member of the FBI who moves back home to the Native American tribe she once left to help investigate the death of her father. We experience the culture and beliefs of the people which is enjoyable and how they play out in the mystery and troubled characters. We are also introduced to the skinwalkers which adds an element of magic.

Overall, an okay start to the series. I'll give the second book a try, and if it doesn't i
Apr 19, 2016 Diana rated it really liked it
A young female FBI agent, who is Navajo, is notified her father has died. He was ritually murdered. Her father was a Christian minister and was going to build a new church on the reservation. The chief suspect is Ella's brother, a medicine man within the tribe.
Ella and the local FBI agent clash and she is threatened to be fired from the FBI if she investigates the murder. Ella has no idea who she can trust within the tribe and the tribal police force.
A well written mystery.
May 10, 2015 Donna rated it liked it
Blackening Song is the debut of FBI agent Ella Clah who returns to the Navajo reservation to solve the mystery of who killed her father. Her brother is a medicine man who uses his skills to help her fight skinwalkers. The book delves into Navajo culture, actually a little more than I wanted because I thought it slowed the pace of the book down. However, I liked the Ella Clah character and the storyline was good. I didn't figure out who the enemy was before he was revealed. I would read another o ...more
Sherri Vigil
Dec 20, 2011 Sherri Vigil rated it it was amazing
When Ella finds herself back on the reservation from serving as a law enforcement officer in California. Her struggle to re-enter her Native American world yet maintain her skills and responsibilities in law enforcement is captivating. Her mother is a spicy delightful character. Her brother the shaman. The old and new working to solve and stop the violence. This is the first book I read on the Ella series and have enjoyed the whole series.
Mary Havlovic
Dec 01, 2013 Mary Havlovic rated it really liked it
Shelves: mystery
Ella Clah, Navajo who left the reservation to become an FBI agent and now returns to try and unofficially solve her father's murder. Her brother becomes a suspect in his death and Ella must prove his innocence. During the process of solving her father's murder, she also becomes the target of the killer. Ella begins to discover alot about herself and why she left the reservation. These skills also helped her hunt down her father's killer. Suspensefully, good read.
Fredrick Danysh
Mar 15, 2012 Fredrick Danysh rated it really liked it
FBI agent Ella Clah goes back to the Navajo reservation after preacher father is killed and mutilated. Her brother is the prime suspect of the law enforcement investigating the case. She does not fit in because she had left the reservation after her marriage to a Navajo Army ranger. Complicating the case are Navajo witches called skinwalkers and an FBI agent who alienates Anglos and Navajo alike. This sets the foundation for a series about Ella Clah
BLACKENING SONG (Pol. Proc-Ella Clah-New Mexico-Cont) - NR
Thurlo, David and Aimee - 1st in series

From Fantastic Fiction: Ella Clah, a tough Navajo FBI agent, must combine modern investigative techniques with traditional Native American mystical beliefs to solve a murder on the Navajo Indian Reservation in Shiprock, New Mexico.

It started out well, bogged down in the middle and I was completely bored by the end. Shan't read another.
Gaye Vaterlaus
Mar 19, 2014 Gaye Vaterlaus rated it really liked it
In the spirit of Tony Hillerman, Ella Clah, is a Navajo FBI agent who returns to her home, the Navajo reservation in New Mexico, to find the killer of her father. Steeped in Indian legend, customs and lore, Ella defends her family and her looks for a peace she never knew she was missing. I enjoyed this first book in a series that Hillerman himself recommended when it was first published. It was a great read.
Jul 29, 2016 Don rated it liked it
This story focuses more on the Character of Ella Clah and her relationships and desires etc. than on the southwest setting. I like the mysteries that make you seem like you are right there in the southwest walking along the same path - this did not pull me in. The plot seemed somewhat predictable, and the resultant discovery of the villain was a bit disappointing, and seemed somewhat unrealistic. Overall, a nice easy read for a summer vacation though.
Steven Howes
Jun 18, 2010 Steven Howes rated it liked it
This is another series of mystery books focusing on the Navajo Reservation. While not the best book I have read, it was entertaining and contained much information about Navajo cultural beliefs along with the main plot line. Since this was the first book of a 15 or 16 book series, I think I will try the next two or three books before I buy all the rest.
Aug 19, 2013 Jennifer rated it liked it
Ella Clah is an FBI agent called home to the Navajo reservation when her father is murdered in a ritualistic manner and her brother is accused of committing the murder. I picked up the book since I recently visited the area. I was unimpressed with the writing style, which felt overly simplistic, and had trouble connecting with the mystical/magical realism aspects of the story.
Dec 05, 2008 sean rated it liked it
Pretty good...a more mystical take on the same land very familiar from Tony Hillerman's books. This is the second book I've read in the series, but it's actually the first book written in the series. It's a little more mystical and a little rougher than the third book, which I read earlier this week. I'm definitely going to keep an eye out for the rest of the books in this series.
May 27, 2009 Gail rated it really liked it
Shelves: ella-clah-series
Well, now I'm just going to have to read the whole series (14 of them as of now). Perfect summer reading, plus I get to learn a few things about the Navajo. I like the main character, a strong and intuitive female. It's hard to find these books in stores around here. I wonder if they're easier to find in New Mexico.
Michael Brown
Feb 10, 2014 Michael Brown rated it did not like it
there is too much bad magic in this story - just like so many other series set with the southwest indian reservations. the characters are the same as other books with little appeal to me. the fbi is again incompetent and so on and so on. this is a series I will try one more to see if it gets better. I do not expect it to.
Dec 01, 2013 Denise rated it liked it
Very enjoyable book. Having grown up next to the Navajo rez in Northern Arizona, I have always been fascinated by Navajo myths and beliefs. I'm also a big fan of mystery/thrillers. This combines both in a fast-paced format and is reminiscent of the Tony Hillerman novels except that the hero (heroine) is a female FBI agent, Ella Clah. Good enough for me to want to read the next in the series.
Oct 19, 2008 Martha rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This is the first book I've read written by Aimee and David Thurlo, but it won't be my last. Excellent mystery set on the Navajo Reservation in New Mexico. FBI agent Ella Clah returns to the rez on leave after her father has been murdered and undertakes her own investigation. The twists and turns of the plot kept me guessing right to the end.
Michael  Starsheen
A good first entry in this series

I gave this book five stars because it is a great read. I enjoyed the suspense and the interplay of the characters and the Navajo culture. I recommend this book for a great time.
Fans of Tony Hillerman's books will love this series featuring a female Navajo
FBI agent. Fast paced with unexpected twists and turns, all set in the beautiful
Four Corners area. I recommend reading these in order.
Melissa Blanchard
Jul 30, 2013 Melissa Blanchard rated it it was amazing
Well written story with a strong woman dedicated to doing what is right. Good opening that hooks the reader from the beginning. Suspenseful to the very end. Also enjoyed Ella finding her place among her Navajo family. I recommend this story to all who enjoy reading.
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Aimee and David Thurlo are the authors of the Ella Clah mysteries, the Sister Agatha mysteries, the Lee Nez vampire novels all set in New Mexico. David grew up on the Navajo Indian Nation, and Aimee, a native of Cuba, lived in the southwest for forty years.

Aimée passed away peacefully at her home on the morning of February 28, 2014, after a brief struggle with cancer and related complications. She
More about Aimée Thurlo...

Other Books in the Series

Ella Clah (1 - 10 of 17 books)
  • Death Walker (Ella Clah, #2)
  • Bad Medicine (Ella Clah, #3)
  • Enemy Way (Ella Clah, #4)
  • Shooting Chant (Ella Clah, #5)
  • Red Mesa (Ella Clah, #6)
  • Changing Woman (Ella Clah, #7)
  • Tracking Bear (Ella Clah, #8)
  • Wind Spirit (Ella Clah, #9)
  • White Thunder (Ella Clah, #10)
  • Mourning Dove (Ella Clah, #11)

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