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Dance Hall of the Dead Mass Market Paperback – May 26, 2009

4.6 out of 5 stars 213 customer reviews
Book 2 of 20 in the Leaphorn and Chee Series

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Editorial Reviews


"...as with all of Hillerman's other books on tape, Dance Hall of the Dead is compelling, colorful, and just complex enough to keep you interested, but not confused." -- Catalyst, September 1997

"An author's style has a lot to do with the success of an audio book...One writer whose works on the mark for listeners every time is Tony Hillerman...Hillerman is a former newspaper reporter, and his novels have a journalistic feel. His sentences tend to be straightforward, and they translate well to tape...An editor for Recorded Books said Hillerman's books are "very crisply written, and he leaves a lot to the imagination. Some writers put in too much detail. He leaves a lot of room for the listener."...Actor Michael Ansara, who has portrayed native Americans on television and in films, is the reader for Audio Partners' work. His reading is crisp and clear, with a touch of gravity." -- Indianapolis Star, September 1991

"High entertainment, an aesthetically satisfying glimpse of the still-powerful tribal mysteries." -- The New York Times --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

About the Author

Tony Hillerman (1925–2008), an Albuquerque, New Mexico, resident since 1963, was the author of 29 books, including the popular 18-book mystery series featuring Navajo police officers Jim Chee and Joe Leaphorn, two non-series novels, two children’s books, and nonfiction works. He had received every major honor for mystery fiction; awards ranging from the Navajo Tribal Council's commendation to France 's esteemed Grand prix de litterature policiere. Western Writers of America honored him with the Wister Award for Lifetime achievement in 2008. He served as president of the prestigious Mystery Writers of America, and was honored with that group’s Edgar Award and as one of mystery fiction’s Grand Masters. In 2001, his memoir, Seldom Disappointed, won both the Anthony and Agatha Awards for best nonfiction.

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Product Details

  • Series: Joe Leaphorn
  • Mass Market Paperback: 272 pages
  • Publisher: Harper; Reprint edition (January 1, 2009)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0061808385
  • ISBN-13: 978-0061808388
  • Product Dimensions: 4.2 x 0.6 x 7.5 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 5.6 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (213 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #124,127 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Audio Cassette
Tony Hillerman has written a list of novels so distinctively unique that they could classify as a genre unto themselves. With their brilliant depiction of Native American cultures and life in our Western desert, these novels are much more than detective/thrillers. When I first read Hillerman, starting with one of his more recent books, I thought that his mystery, as a mystery, was rather slight. Nevertheless, I was captivated. And as I continued to read, I realized that the reader becomes so caught up in Hillerman's world, so enamored by the ceremonials, religious practices and daily lives of these native people, that one can almost lose sight of the unfolding mystery. Not so, however, wih this early award-winning novel. In this novel, suspense builds to a smashing crescendo, while his portrayal of the Zuni's Dance Hall of the Dead ceremonial is perhaps the most fascinating of all such portrayals.
The story begins with Ernesto Cata, a twelve-year-old Zuni boy, proudly and diligently practicing for his role as Little Fire God, in which he will lead his village and dance an all-night attendance on the Council of the Gods. But, in a practice run, the boy comes face to face with a kachina. An initiated and well-tutored Zuni, Ernesto knows what it means to see a kachina. And suddenly the Little Fire God has disappeared, leaving behind a pool of blood to soak into the desert sand. Then his best friend George Bowlegs, a Navaho, is also missing and Joe Leaphorn of the Navaho Tribal Police is called in to find him. When Leaphorn himself sees a kachina, he remembers a Zuni friend telling him that no one sees this spirit of the Zuni dead unless he himself is about to die. . .
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Format: Mass Market Paperback
This is the second book in the "Navajo Detective" series by Tony Hillerman and the first in which detective Joe Leaphorn is the principal charactor.
Dance Hall of the Dead is a sad story. It concerns the murder or disppearance of two boys, a Navajo and a Zuni, and Joe Leaphorn's efforts to find the missing boys. The riddle is entwined with Zuni religious ceremonies which Leaphorn, a Navajo, tries to understand.
Hillerman gives a virtual travelogue of the Zuni and Navajo country of New Mexico and Arizona in the early 1970s when the book was written. Leaphorn is a thoroughly likeable hero, rational, even-tempered, and ethical with a compulsion to get to the bottom of things. Hillerman is a master of creating an exotic atmosphere of Zuni and Navajo culture and ceremonies overlaid by the splendor of the natural setting. With such ornament, it hardly matters that the solution to the mystery itself is not very convincing.
What a great title! If you're a wide-open-spaces-kind-of-a-person Hillerman is unbeatable as a mystery writer with a western twist. In Joe Leaphorn he has created a fictional detective who can take his place among the all-time best.
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Format: Mass Market Paperback
First published in 1973, DANCE HALL OF THE DEAD was and is still considered among the best of Tony Hillerman's "Joe Leaphorn" novels, a series set on Southwestern Native American lands and following the adventures of Lt. Leaphorn as he investigates crimes on the reservation. In this particular novel, Leaphorn, a Navajo, is summoned to Zunni lands to assist in a particularly unpleasant crime: a Zunni teenager's blood has soaked the land, but his body is missing--and so is the Navajo teenager who was with him.

As usual, Hillerman writes in a strong prose voice, and much of the novel's interest stems from his depiction of the character, traditions, and lore of Native Americans who live on the reservation. Unlike some other Hillerman novels, the plot is fairly tight and does indeed live up to its description as a mystery--but even so the mystery here is remarkably transparent; even the most niave reader should be able to spot both killer and motive in the first quarter of the novel. That is unfortunate--but still, Hillerman's expert prose and his portrait of Native American society make DANCE HALL OF THE DEAD an interesting, entertaining, and often informative read. Generally recommended.

GFT, Amazon Reviewer
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Format: Mass Market Paperback
When every book in a series rates five stars, how do you choose a favorite? It's hard, especially with Hillerman's Leaphorn-Chee series. But if push comes to shove and I *have* to pick a favorite, I guess this is it.
I have at times been tempted to think that Hillerman's appeal is partly 'merely' the appeal of his Navajo setting and 'adopted roots.' This book proves that it isn't the case. Abandoning the Navajo Reservation for a change and traveling to the much smaller Zuni one, the author shows us once and for all that he doesn't have to stay on The Big Res to keep us hooked or to educate us about authentic Native American issues.
In the summer of 1998 I took all of the Hillerman books then published on a trip with me to Arizona and New Mexico, and used them as travel guides as I toured all the places he writes about. Though it was greener than I expected, the Zuni reservation was laid out exactly as described, and, while outsiders are no longer allowed to view Shalako, Hillerman's descriptions of the original Zuni pueblo and environs proved to be bang-on accurate. Then I traveled west into the territory where Leaphorn undergoes his 'Helpless Hero' scene, and again the canyons and mesas proved to be exactly as described.
But that's all pretty much beside the point. Hillerman may be the prime tour guide of the Southwest, but his real strength is his characters, and here this book excels. George Cata is so real you can almost reach out and touch him, and so are all of the principal participants in the Shalako. The sinister 'white guys' are as creepy as anything Mario Puzo ever came up with, and Leaphorn, of course, towers over all.
Though the Navajos involved are pretty much peripheral to the main plot, except of course for the kid who wants to be Zuni and the policeman himself, this book is just as authentic, just as suspenseful, and just as moving, as any of the others. And the tour-de-force suspense plot puts it over the top.
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