Goodreads helps you keep track of books you want to read.
Start by marking “Sacred Clowns (Navajo Mysteries, #11)” as Want to Read:
Sacred Clowns (Navajo Mysteries, #11)
Enlarge cover
Rate this book
Clear rating
Open Preview

Sacred Clowns (Leaphorn & Chee #11)

3.98  ·  Rating Details  ·  5,570 Ratings  ·  131 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
Paperback, 354 pages
Published August 1994 by HarperPaperbacks (first published April 1st 1992)
More Details... edit details

Friend Reviews

To see what your friends thought of this book, please sign up.

Reader Q&A

To ask other readers questions about Sacred Clowns, please sign up.

Be the first to ask a question about Sacred Clowns

Sense and Sensibility by Jane AustenShadow Kiss by Richelle MeadShiver by Maggie StiefvaterSpirit Bound by Richelle MeadStiff by Mary Roach
Great books that start with "S"
365th out of 377 books — 41 voters
And Then There Were None by Agatha ChristieMurder on the Orient Express by Agatha ChristieThe Murder of Roger Ackroyd by Agatha ChristieThe Complete Sherlock Holmes by Arthur Conan DoyleThe Da Vinci Code by Dan Brown
Best Murder Mysteries Of All-Time
443rd out of 551 books — 247 voters

More lists with this book...

Community Reviews

(showing 1-30 of 3,000)
filter  |  sort: default (?)  |  Rating Details
Nov 24, 2015 Carmen rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Mystery Fans
Recommended to Carmen by: Library
Jim Chee had been reading a book of Margaret Atwood's short stories he'd borrowed from Janet Pete, thinking it might impress her. He decided Miss Atwood would call Blizzard's expression either "bleak" or "stolid." Or maybe "wintry."

Jim Chee and Joe Leaphorn are once again working a series of seemingly unrelated cases that end up coming together. This is the first book where Chee is working directly under Leaphorn and not Largo - hopefully another step towards these two becoming friends. I'm tryi
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?
Jul 20, 2012 Richard rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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.
Apr 02, 2012 David rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
Jun 17, 2007 Brian rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
David Bryant
Sep 03, 2015 David Bryant rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Short(er) and sweet.
This is my second time reading this book, after a gap of 10 years or more. It is a bit shorter than some of the Hillerman novels, and definitely shorter than most other novels, especially these days. And besides the usual elements of crime and crime-solving, the personal stories of the lead characters woven through the plot are especially bittersweet. The growing sense of love between Leaphorn and his professor friend Louisa Bourebonette, and between Jim Chee and Janet Peet,
Aug 25, 2008 Paul rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: mystery
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
May 22, 2013 Hidey rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
Jun 17, 2013 Shannon rated it liked it
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...
Jesse Whitehead
Jan 13, 2015 Jesse Whitehead rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Every time I read a Tony Hillerman novel I wonder why it took me so long to get around to reading another on. These books are pure entertainment and brilliant writing. The strength of Hillerman is his characters and his obvious love of New Mexico and the native cultures that dwell there.

This book deals with Hopi religious practices and money and environmentalists and the kind of personal justice that makes Tony Hillman so great.

I love the feel of this early book, with Chee uncomfortable in his r
Orville Jenkins
Dec 27, 2014 Orville Jenkins rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Another Navajo-Hopi murder mystery unfolds under Hillerman's pen featuring the team work of Joe Leaphorn and Detective Jim Chee of the Navajo Police. They team up with Cowboy, a Hopi law enforcement officer, to solve a murder that revolves around the Tano Kachina spirit ceremony.

As usual, Jim Chee is actually assigned on what he considers a nuisance case, looking for Delmar Kanitewa, a missing teen. But the case turns into a challenging first-rate mystery. Chee spots Kanitewa at the Kachina cere
Bobby Underwood
Nov 23, 2014 Bobby Underwood rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Sacred Clowns is truly Tony Hillerman at his best. Both Leaphorn and Chee are at a personal crossroad in their lives while attempting to solve two crimes which may or may not be related. A complex mystery is interwoven with the care befitting a sacred blanket as we learn about the Navajo and their beliefs.

The depth of understanding for each man's loneliness and their individual efforts to end it are poignantly portrayed by Hillerman in a mystery as good as any he has penned. Those who relish the
Amber Foxx
Jul 20, 2014 Amber Foxx rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition

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
Jun 12, 2014 David rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
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 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
May 31, 2013 Nolan rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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
Susan Peine
Jan 29, 2011 Susan Peine rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
Oct 13, 2013 Kate rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
"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
Jul 06, 2013 Newmarket2 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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,
Lillian Carl
Jim Chee has been assigned to work with Joe Leaphorn and they're still getting used to each other's personalities. Their learning curve is pretty steep, but while they annoy each other, they both realize each other's capabilities.

The mystery concerns two different murders of "valuable people" that have to be connected somehow, perhaps by a missing schoolboy. There's also a hit-and-run case and some political corruption, leaving Chee pulled several ways at once---when he's not obsessing over Jan
Susan Jo Grassi
Feb 12, 2011 Susan Jo Grassi rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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
Feb 28, 2010 Carol rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: fiction
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
Oct 30, 2014 Betty rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
One of the best of Hillerman's book as he contrasts the action of young Navajo policeman, Jim Chess with otherwise of Senior officer Joe Leaphorn. Jim manages to screw up by not really paying attention to what he is doing. It's spring all he thinking about is Janet Peete. His assignment is to locate a Indian lad who is missing from his school and tell him to call his grandmother. Jim asked Janet to go with him to the festival for romantic interlude and before he realizes it Janet has a couple of ...more
Gerald Kinro
A White woodshop teacher is beaten to death in his classroom; a student is missing, and the boy’s uncle, 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
Mike Billington
Dec 27, 2015 Mike Billington rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I've long been a fan of Tony Hillerman's novels about the Navajo Tribal Police and reading "Sacred Clowns" has done nothing to diminish my enjoyment of his novels.
Hillerman had a unique way of bringing the culture of the Navajo to life in the pages of his murder mysteries in much the same way that Arthur Upfield did when he was writing about life in early 20th Century Australia. Not many writers can do that successfully.
In "Sacred Clowns" Lt. Joe Leaphorn and Officer Jim Chee have to solve two m
Feb 11, 2015 Bri rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
This book swept me away to this other wonderful world. The setting was brilliantly set. I could totally see it in my mind. But the characters were definitely my favorite part. They are all so colorful, interesting, exciting, and hilarious. The main character is just perfect. The plot moved fast enough that I couldn't stop reading lest I miss something, but the author still took the time to flesh out the details. The details are what really make or break a story.
Sep 15, 2014 Carolyn rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: mystery
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.
Another fast-paced Leaphorn and Chee book. This one involves two murders which don't seem connected, but could they be. I learned some about the differences between the Hopi beliefs and the Navajo beliefs and we added a fun new character. I hope he returns in the future. I stand by my "Janet Pete is not the right woman for Chee" statement. That said, moving on to the next.
Morris Graham
Sep 03, 2014 Morris Graham rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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.
« previous 1 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 99 100 next »
topics  posts  views  last activity   
Sacred Clowns - Book Discussion 9 17 Jul 12, 2014 03:50PM  
  • The Dream Stalker (Wind River Reservation, #3)
  • Red Mesa (Ella Clah, #6)
  • Cry Dance
  • Stone Butterfly (Charlie Moon, #11)
  • Spider Woman's Daughter (Leaphorn  & Chee, #19)
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 20 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)

Share This Book