James Thane's Reviews > Dance Hall of the Dead

Dance Hall of the Dead by Tony Hillerman
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Jul 12, 2012

really liked it
bookshelves: crime-fiction
Read in July, 2012

This is the second of Tony Hillerman's celebrated books featuring Lieutenant Joe Leaphorn of the Navajo Tribal Police. Later, Leaphorn would be assisted by a younger officer, Jim Chee, but this book, which won The Edgar Award, belongs to Leaphorn alone.

A young Zuni Indian boy, Ernesto Cata, disappears while training for his important role in an upcoming tribal ceremony. A large pool of blood suggests that something very bad has happened to Ernesto, and Joe Leaphorn is assigned to fine Ernesto's best friend, George Bowlegs, a Navajo. George has disappeared and the authorities believe that he might have important information about the fate that has befallen Ernesto. It is even possible, they believe, that George might have been responsible for the crime committed against Ernesto.

In his pursuit of the boy, Leaphorn crosses paths with George's alcoholic father, a group of hippies in a rather peculiar commune, and a determined archeologist who's working on a dig that may significantly change what we know about early man in what is now the southwestern United States. Along the way, Leaphorn reveals and in return discovers a great deal about the cultural and religious traditions of both the Navajo and the Zuni peoples.

This is among the most unique crime fiction series of the last fifty years. Hillerman, who died in 2008, wrote seventeen books in this series. The mysteries themselves are always captivating, but what set the series apart was the window it provided into the culture of the Indian people of the Southwest and the way in which Hillerman captured the physical setting in which these people live. This is truly a fascinating book in an excellent series.
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Comments (showing 1-13 of 13) (13 new)

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message 1: by Tfitoby (new)

Tfitoby This one is on the HRF Keating 100 greatest crime books list for pretty much the same reasons you stated. I look forward to finding a copy.


James Thane Tfitoby wrote: "This one is on the HRF Keating 100 greatest crime books list for pretty much the same reasons you stated. I look forward to finding a copy."

I didn't realize that, but I can certainly understand why.


message 3: by Kemper (new)

Kemper I'm ashamed to admit this but I've never read any of Hillerman's books.


message 4: by Tfitoby (new)

Tfitoby don't feel bad kemper, you can't do everything right away, one day you'll find one in your hand and it will be a happy occasion.


James Thane Kemper wrote: "I'm ashamed to admit this but I've never read any of Hillerman's books."

Are you sure there might not be one of them lurking in the infamous Rubbermaid container?


message 6: by Kemper (new)

Kemper Tfitoby wrote: "don't feel bad kemper, you can't do everything right away, one day you'll find one in your hand and it will be a happy occasion."

I think if no new books ever come out again, I might be able to catch up on what I want to read before I die. If I live to be 120.


message 7: by Kemper (new)

Kemper James wrote: "Are you sure there might not be one of them lurking in the infamous Rubbermaid container?"

Nope. He's one I've completely missed somehow.


message 8: by Cathy (new) - added it

Cathy DuPont Nice review. Very nice. Been wanting to read Hillerman and your review made him jump to the top of my 'to read' list. Thanks.


James Thane Thanks, Cathy. Hope you enjoy him.


Carmen Great review.


James Thane Thanks, Carmen.


message 12: by Glee (new) - rated it 4 stars

Glee The Leaphorn/Chee series is one of my all time favorites. (Small) part mystery, large part travelogue, large part cultural education. Just wonderful. I am so sad that there are no more.... (and yes, I read the one by his daughter, not bad, but not the same).


James Thane Glee wrote: "The Leaphorn/Chee series is one of my all time favorites. (Small) part mystery, large part travelogue, large part cultural education. Just wonderful. I am so sad that there are no more.... (and yes..."

I agree, Glee. I read the first one by his daughter as well and didn't like it at all. Didn't think it was nearly as good as the books by her father.


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