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The Blessing Way (Leaphorn & Chee #1)

4.06  ·  Rating Details ·  14,322 Ratings  ·  584 Reviews
Homicide is always an abomination, but there is something exceptionally disturbing about the victim discovered in a high lonely place, a corpse with a mouth full of sand, abandoned at a crime scene seemingly devoid of tracks or useful clues. Though it goes against his better judgment, Navajo Tribal Police Lieutenant Joe Leaphorn cannot help but suspect the hand of a ...more
Paperback, 320 pages
Published March 7th 1990 by HarperTorch (first published 1970)
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Amy Denton The Four Corners is an area in the Southwest U.S. where four states meet. The four states are Colorado, Arizona, New Mexico and Utah meet. There is a…moreThe Four Corners is an area in the Southwest U.S. where four states meet. The four states are Colorado, Arizona, New Mexico and Utah meet. There is a monument there as that is the only place in the U.S. where four states meet. The Four Corners area is also the dividing line between the Navajo Nation and the Ute Tribe.(less)
Ms.pegasus The characters age as the series proceeds. However, I don't think there's any reason to adopt a strict chronological order for reading the books.
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Community Reviews

(showing 1-30)
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Oct 06, 2013 Brian rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Navahos and paint ponies
Hillerman is chocolate. Read him at the beach, read him before bed, but read him. Then you too will belong to the high plains, the canyons and mesas of the desert Southwest. You will think and speak differently, quietly, thoughtfully. You will find the wound in the floor of the kiva, a melody which is a wound in silence, and you will follow, like Alice down the rabbit hole.
Bill  Kerwin
Dec 03, 2016 Bill Kerwin rated it liked it

This first book in the Joe Leaphorn series features an exciting conclusion, but it also features two heroes instead of one (Ethnologist Bergen McKee gets more pages than Leaphorn), and I don't think it is always clear where the focus of the novel is supposed to be.

The ethnic information about witchcraft beliefs among the Navaho is interesting, but not always properly integrated into the narrative. This is, however, his first detective novel. It is well-written, I hear he is one of the masters o
Dirk Grobbelaar
It's been mentioned in other reviews, but this particular book does seem to suffer from a bit of an identity crisis: it doesn't quite seem sure of its main protagonist. You'd think it would be Joe Leaphorn, but it just may not be after all.

That said, it's certainly a rather interesting book. Navajo symbolism and mythology permeate the writing to such an extent that I initially found it somewhat difficult to follow the story, but once you get used to the writing style it actually reads quite fast
Oct 23, 2015 Carmen rated it did not like it
Recommends it for: No One
Recommended to Carmen by: Library
I usually don't do this, but DNF on page 106. I can't make heads or tails out of what's going on, and I'm bored stiff.

UPDATE: 10/23/2015

Okay, I finished it. Still stand by my original opinion.
Apr 09, 2007 Penny rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
I actually read this quite a long time ago and I don't remember the details, but I've never read a Tony Hillerman I didn't like.

This is the first of Hillerman's Joe Leaphorn/Jim Chee/Navajo Reservation mysteries, and I read in an interview that it has so many inaccuracies about Navajo culture that it now makes him cringe. Apparently, though, the Navajo people were quite pleased with his respectful interest in their culture, and they liked the book despite whatever weaknesses it may have. Of cour
Oct 12, 2015 Ms.pegasus rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: anyone interested in Native American cultures
THE BLESSING WAY was Tony Hillerman's first novel. Although Navajo police officer Joe Leaphorn appears in the book, he is a secondary character. The main character is Bergen McKee, a tenured professor with expertise in the social context of Navajo witchcraft. McKee is still recovering from his divorce five years ago and has returned to the Reservation to continue his research in hopes of revitalizing some of the ambition of his youth. He contacts Leaphorn, an old friend from college, to collect ...more
Jan 08, 2015 Eric rated it really liked it
Recommends it for: Fans of mysteries
As a mystery fan, I had been meaning to check this series out for a while. But it wasn't until I spent a rainy weekend in Napa and took temporary shelter in a lovely used bookstore that I saw a paperback copy and finally picked it up. It may be my best used bookstore impulse buy ever, and I have made quite a few of those.

There is not much new I can add to the conversation about the mystery handled by Arizona Navajo Tribal Police Lt. Joe Leaphorn in this novel, being that was originally published
The first of a brilliant series of detective novels. The protagonist is a Navajo tribal police detective and the story is immersed in Navajo culture and the look and feel of the Four Corners region of the southwestern United States.

As a near-native New Mexican (lived here since I was four) I recognized my homeland and the personalities of a lot of people who live here more strongly here than in any other author's work. On top of that authenticity, the result of extensive research and a flawless
Book Concierge

From the dust jacket: When Lt. Joe Leaphorn of the Navajo Tribal Police discovers a corpse with a mouth full of sand at a crime scene seemingly without tracks or clues, he is ready to suspect a supernatural killer. Blood on the rocks … a body on the high mesa … Leaphorn must stalk the Wolf-Witch along a chilling trail between mysticism and murder.

This is the first in the series featuring Leaphorn. Hillerman weaves in considerable Navajo lore in this very real story of murder and mayhem. T
Heath Lowrance
Nov 24, 2013 Heath Lowrance rated it it was ok
Many of the reviews here have already pointed out that this first book in the long-running series about Navajo Tribal Policeman Joe Leaphorn has its problems. As a mystery, it's a little weak, the narrative is clunky, the characters not exactly finely-drawn. All true. It's also been pointed out that the stuff relating to Navajo traditions and mythology is fascinating and nicely done. That, too, is true, and is THE BLESSING WAY's saving grace.

It should be noted that Leaphorn is not the main chara
Nannette Serra
Sep 27, 2013 Nannette Serra rated it it was amazing
Shelves: westerns
I've read all of Tony Hillerman's books so this is the only review of them that I am going to write because once you read one, you will want to read them all. I like Western movies, both the cowboys and the Indians. One of the things I learned about the Navajo made me love their culture. Hillerman writes that, when they first meet, they don't really talk business until everyone has had a chance to repeat their genealogy. Apparently they keep going through the oral history of their people until ...more
This, the first book in the long running Joe Leaphorn series, was an Edgar nominee for best first mystery back in 1971 and was a good listen on audio. I did think it started out a bit slow though but about half way through it picked up the pace. The narration was done by the always excellent George Guidall.
Jun 29, 2014 Simona rated it really liked it
I really liked the style of writing and the setting in this book. I think I'll continue to dwell on this series for a while.
Jun 02, 2011 Kristin rated it it was ok
Shelves: mystery, audio-books
This is the first book in Tony Hillerman’s Navaho mysteries, and the first of three with Joe Leaphorn. I’ve already reviewed Listening Woman and Dance Hall of the Dead. What I appreciated was I didn’t find that the books had to be read in order. And I’m almost glad I read them out of order since the first book featuring Lt. Joe Leaphorn was definitely not the strongest of the three. I also “read” this on audio book.

Premise of the book revolves around a body found out in the canyon country on the
Aug 13, 2016 Casceil rated it really liked it
The Blessing Way introduces Joe Leaphorn, a Navajo tribal policeman who investigates crimes on the reservation. As a cop, he is a little bit in the style of an Andy Griffith type sheriff--easygoing, good with people, more interested in promoting harmony than in making arrests, but dedicated to preventing bad guys from doing harm. As a Navajo himself, he is not only fluent in the language but also knowledgeable about diplomatic niceties and protocol: when to use which form of respectful address, ...more
Jun 27, 2012 Dale rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Published by Borders/Recorded books in 1990.
Narrated by George Guidall.
Duration: Approximately 6 hours, 30 minutes.

The Blessing Way is the first of the Leaphorn books but, ironically, Leaphorn is a mere supporting character throughout most of the second half of the book. College professor/archaeologist Bergen McKee is the main character - the one who has the most growth and teaches the reader the most about Navajo society and culture.

Nevertheless, The Blessing Way is an enjoyable book. I hav
Sep 11, 2012 Leah rated it liked it
The mood of this book is definitely its saving grace. It is a little clumsily written, and the narrative can be confusing, but seen as its Mr Hillerman's first book in what became a well-respected and unique series, it's totally forgivable. Learning about Navajo culture was fascinating, although from what I understand, this book has some misrepresentations that he makes up for in later novels. This is my first Hillerman read and it won't be my last. I'm glad I read the first book first because ...more
Julie Davis
Sep 05, 2014 Julie Davis rated it really liked it
I read a slew of Tony Hillerman's books back in the day and liked them.

When I was reading Cold Dish (which I quit halfway through, skipped to the end to see the killer ... nailed it, btw) I felt like Cold Dish was kind of sappy and sentimental.

Then I realized that the feeling I wanted (western culture, unsentimental, good mystery) was there all along! Or that is my guess. Early in rereading this book and have realized that I really don't remember anything about it at all but am loving it. Read
Oct 11, 2009 Mary rated it liked it
My daughter picked this to use for a book project in school, and since it had been ages since I read Hillerman I decided to read it again when she was finished. It is the first in his Navajo series, and while it is good, it isn't as well done as the later stories. And I had nearly forgotten about the 'Leaphorn before Chee' books! Hillerman has a wonderful way of incorporating cultural issues and information into his books; there is always some conflict between the ways of the white man and the ...more
Have had Hillerman's Chee-Leaphorn Navajo Mystery series on my reading list for a long time, having read/heard good things about it for years. This first book, The Blessing Way, was published in the 1970s. Enjoyed reading a mystery that was quite unlike any I've read lately. Refreshing. This book does stumble about and is not as tight as it probably could have been, but the concept is fresh air. It is, after all, the first book in the series and I believe the first, or close to the first, publis ...more
Jun 14, 2011 Shannon rated it really liked it
Very interesting setting and I really enjoyed the descriptions of the Indian way of life, etc. I kind of saw the ending/resolution coming though. I've read some of the other reviews of the next few books in this series and yes, there is lot more of Bergen in this story than Leaprock but I am excited to see how the series progresses.
Moira Russell
Wow, this book is TERRIBLE. Now I know why an EngLit teacher started us off with Dance Hall in a course on mysteries and genre. I doubt I'll finish it except I'm still (STILL) sick and there's a lot of shitstorms whirling around per usual and I need distraction. But oh Jesus it's bad.
I only classify this as paranormal as quite a few of the characters (due to their religious beliefs) belive that the supernatural is at work and really, the religious aspect is very deep at the base of the novel.

This mystery was written back in the 70s and definitely reflects that as we see characters that just returned from the Vietnam war or were in the Korean War and the military background reflects in how some of the characters act or think.

Leaphorn is an officer an expanse of land spannin
Dec 22, 2011 Julia rated it it was ok
Shelves: mysterious
I must admit that initially I was so excited to read this book. I grew up in the US and I wanted to read something that I could relate to with all of the Native American aspects of this story. I was sorely, sorely disappointed, however. It unfortunately followed the trend of so many masculine crime novels where there are just too many characters who are alternately referenced by their first and last names making it even harder to develop an understanding of their personalities, relationships and ...more
Tseen Khoo
Mar 08, 2012 Tseen Khoo rated it did not like it
I never finished this book (sorry, @flexnib!). I found Hillerman's style hard to get into, then found that I didn't really like it.

A key reason I found the idea of Hillerman's books interesting was the crime/mystery genre was coupled with the foregrounding of a Native American detective and narrative settings.

I found the set-up of the story, from the introduction of the characters to the unfolding plot, somewhat clumsy and, sometimes, plain tedious.

Being a novel with Native American protagonis
Sep 06, 2015 Telyn rated it liked it
Shelves: mystery, fiction
I recently revisited the Blessing Way, Tony Hillerman's first novel set in the Navajo Nation. Despite its shortcomings, not least of which is a preposterous plot, it's still a fun read, but definitely flawed.

I first read this novel on a trip to the Southwest in the 1980s when I was a kid, and found it captivating. I went on to read the entire series, and to reread many of my favorites, but this one has been sitting on the shelf unread for decades. I found the descriptions of the land and people
Mar 07, 2012 Brianna rated it really liked it
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
Dec 10, 2015 Shawn rated it really liked it
I've wanted to read the first Leaphorn mystery for a long time. My biggest surprise was how little it actually involved Leaphorn. The story really revolves around Bergen McKee: an anthropologist who specializes in Navajo culture. According to Wikipedia, Hillerman wrote the novel with McKee as the main character and Leaphorn's character was secondary. Obviously he and his editors realized that there was something there with Leaphorn and continued the series with him as the central character.

Jan 26, 2013 Robby rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Those interested & Tony Hillerman Fans
Recommended to Robby by: Self
This being the first book of the Joe Leaphorn series had some rough edges to it;(IMO). I thought character realization somewhat vague early on. I don't know if it is always clear where the focus of the novel is supposed to be. But that could be just my lack or grasp of the different switchbacks of the Navajo and related Indian languages used/referenced in telling this tale. A little difficult to get into for me for about two-thirds of the book. Still, I found the story entertaining and ...more
Aug 06, 2015 Bill rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This is the first book in the Lt Joe Leaphorn, of the Navajo Tribal Police mysteries. It was recommended to me in one of my Goodreads book clubs. I enjoyed this very much, reminded me somewhat of the Longmire books, except from the perspective of the Native Law and Order. Leaphorn isn't in the story all of the time, quite large portions follow his friend McKee, an archeologist who is researching Navajo witches. Joe is trying to solve the murder of Luis Horseman, a Navajo, who is hiding out in ...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, ...more
More about Tony Hillerman...

Other Books in the Series

Leaphorn & Chee (1 - 10 of 21 books)
  • 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)
  • Sacred Clowns (Leaphorn & Chee, #11)

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“Beyond meeting simple immediate needs, the Navajo Way placed little worth on property. In fact, being richer than one’s clansmen carried with it a social stigma. It was unnatural, and therefore suspicious.” 2 likes
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