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Sacred Clowns (Joe Leaphorn/Jim Chee Novels) Mass Market Paperback – June 10, 1994

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Telling his story the Navajo way, Hillerman ( Coyote Waits ) fully develops the background of the cases pursued by Navajo Tribal Policemen, Lt. Joe Leaphorn and Officer Jim Chee, so that the resolutions--personal and professional--ring true with gratifying inevitability. A white woodshop teacher at St. Bonaventure's mission school is bludgeoned to death in his schoolroom; a student, a young boy from Tano Pueblo, is missing. The boy's uncle, a koshare, or sacred clown, in a kachina dance, is stabbed to death right after the ceremony in which he has symbolically warned of the dangers of selling sacred objects; an old man is killed on the highway in a hit and run. Chee, who is apprehensive about working for Leaphorn, tries to locate the missing boy, whose grandmother is on the Navajo Tribal Council, and to learn who ran down the old man, but he is distracted by his growing attachment to lawyer Janet Pete and by his desire to be a hataalii , or shaman, as well as a cop. Leaphorn searches for clues while simultaneously grieving for his wife who died 18 months earlier and considering his relationship with linguistics professor Louisa Bourebonette. Jurisdictional conflicts with the Bureau of Indian Affairs and the Apache County Sheriff's Office reflect the cultural differences that obtain among tribes and clans as this first Leaphorn story in three years, steeped in Navajo lore and traditions, draws to its convincing conclusions. 350,000 first printing; major ad/promo; Mystery Guild selection; Literary Guild and Doubleday Book Club alternates .
Copyright 1993 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

From School Library Journal

YA-In Hillerman's latest mystery set in the Southwest, Navajo tribal policemen Joe Leaphorn and Jim Chee work together with a runaway student as the only link between two seemingly unrelated murders-one of a well-liked art teacher in his classroom on the reservation and the other the uncle of the runaway boy. The author skillfully employs the elements of detection and routine police work while providing readers with an intriguing glimpse of Navajo culture. The relationships between the officers and between the other well-defined characters give depth to the story, which is spiced with both men's romantic interests. The thought processes of the characters are accessible; the narrative holds interest and moves smoothly; and the themes of good and evil, greed and generosity, ethical considerations and environmental issues provide conflict. Unique and masterful.
Linda Sudduth, W.T. Woodson High School, Fairfax, VA
Copyright 1994 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

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Product Details

  • Series: Joe Leaphorn/Jim Chee Novels
  • Mass Market Paperback: 384 pages
  • Publisher: HarperTorch (June 10, 1994)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0061092606
  • ISBN-13: 978-0061092602
  • Product Dimensions: 4.2 x 1 x 6.8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 12.6 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (96 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,707,622 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

Tony Hillerman was the former president of the Mystery Writers of America and received its Edgar® and Grand Master awards. His other honors include the Center for the American Indian's Ambassador Award, the Silver Spur Award for the best novel set in the West, and the Navajo Tribe's Special Friend Award. He lived with his wife in Albuquerque, New Mexico.

Customer Reviews

4.5 out of 5 stars

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

12 of 13 people found the following review helpful By Gregor von Kallahann on June 19, 2000
Format: Mass Market Paperback
I'm not really a mystery buff, so when my book discussion group chose this title to read, I was a little wary. But someone who had read several Hillerman titles recommended his works as much for the cultural portraits they provide as for the mystery element. With SACRED CLOWNS the cultural component is strong indeed: in fact, you could say that the murder mystery is mainly a pretext to explore Navajo and Pueblo life more deeply. Cultural lore comes first, and wrapped up in the text of a pulpy detective novel, it may seem easier to take than, say, a anthropological tome or a socio-political screed.
I found the murder story sketchy and confusing. Perhaps regular readers of the genre would disagree. What I did find compelling were the principal characters, tribal police officers Jim Chee and Joe Leaphorn, their inner conflicts and their attempts to make sense out of the cultural conflicts they experience. They, and some of the secondary characters as well, are well developed characters, whom you come to care about. What makes the mystery storyline a little less resonant, I suspect, is that we never really get to know much about the victim or ultimately, the murderers themselves. The ending is a bit of a surprise, but primarily because it involves characters we scarcely got to know at all.
Still, I wouldn't rule out reading more Hillerman. As a more or less painless way of acquainting oneself with American Indian culture, this novel can't be beat. Well worth checking out--if not at the cash register, or via email, at least consider borrowing it from the local libary.
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13 of 15 people found the following review helpful By Mick McAllister on May 21, 2002
Format: Mass Market Paperback
After adding *Sacred Clowns* to his "Navajo mysteries" series, Hillerman stepped out of the milieu to write a novel best forgotten, *Finding Moon*, about the fall of Saigon. Sadly, when he returned to the series, something was lost, and the books since have felt almost as if they were being ghost-written for him.
*Sacred Clowns* is the last of the best of these books. Set at the fictional "Hano" Pueblo, it explores history, religion, and antiquities, weaving together environmental issues, intertribal rivalries, and a good, solid story with interesting characters. Chee and Leaphorn are dealing with their respective personal problems, and both stories move forward in promising ways.
This is not the best of the series. That honor goes to *A Thief of Time*, because Hillerman got it all right and it dazzles. It's not the most representative. That would be *Skinwalkers*, I think, and hence its selection for the first Hillerman Mystery Theatre production this fall. And it's not my favorite; that would be *Coyote Waits*, with its surprise ending that brings home the potential for tragedy on the reservation better than any mainstream novel I've read.
But it is a good, solid book, entertaining, educational, densely plotted and well written. Of the books added to the series since, the lastest, *The Wailing Wind*, finally suggests that Hillerman is getting back on track, but if you are new to this remarkable and exciting set of novels, begin with one of the three I've recommended above, then, if you like that, go back to the first or second novel and read your way forward. By the time you jump the gully of *Finding Moon*, you will be prepared to forgive some tiredness in the stories that come after.
Joe Leaphorn and Jim Chee will be gone eventually, like Thomas Perry's wonderful Jane Whitefield. I will miss them.
For a complete discussion of the "Indian mystery" genre, check my web site.
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6 of 6 people found the following review helpful By Judith W. Colombo on December 31, 2002
Format: Mass Market Paperback
Judith Woolcock Colombo
Sacred Clowns set within the context of Navajo culture and using the overwhelming physical presence of the Southwest as backdrop, mixes ethnicity, human greed, and romance into an intriguing mystery.
The novel reunites Navajo Detective Jim Chee and Lt. Joe Leaphorn. Chee now part of Leaphorn's two-man Special Investigations Office has been assigned to follow Delmar Kanitewa, a runaway student and grandson of a powerful member of the tribal council.
Chee follows the boy to the Tano Pueblo for a ceremony of koshares, sacred clowns, only to see the ceremony interrupted by a murder. The boy, who is in full site of Chee during the murder at the Pueblo, vanishes. Later it is discovered that he may also know something about another murder, that of shop- teacher Eric Dorsey.
With the boy's disappearance, we are left with the mystery of how exactly the two murders are connected. However, these murders are just the beginning of an intricate plot that involves an unsolved hit and run case, political and religious scandal, and romance for both Chee and Leaphorn.
This is a well-woven story that brings us into the hearts and minds of Hillerman's two very different heroes. The contrast between the lives and characters of the men from their two different methods of problem solving to romancing the women of their choice is as much a part of the story as the mystery itself.
I enjoyed this story very much and was particularly intrigued by the aspects of Navajo culture and tribal law that ran throughout the story. There were some aspects of the methods used, especially by Chee that as both a mystery writer and wife of a retired Sergeant of Detectives, I found questionable.
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