The Blessing Way
By Tony Hillerman
HarperTorch, 1970. 284 pgs. Mystery
The first book in the Joe Leaphorn/Jim Chee mystery series has Lieutenant Joe Leaphorn, of the Navajo Tribal police, investigating a murder with seemingly no clues. The murder victim turns up hundreds of miles from anyone, with no suspects, no tracks, and no clues. At the same time, Bergen McKee visits the area to do academic research regarding Navajo myths involving the Navajo Wolf-Witch. While Bergen is doing his research, talking to the Navajos about suspicious activity in their area, some of the Navajos are preparing to go on a witch hunt. Joe Leaphorn has to piece together his case and find the suspected witch before someone else winds up dead.
Characterization is a weak point in this novel; you never really get a clear picture of the main characters. The plot, however, is interesting, and Hillerman successfully mixes Navajo beliefs with skepticism, making the reader wonder if things previously believed not to exist--like Navajo Wolves--really do exist. The book seemed to end a bit abruptly, and some background in Navajo rituals and ceremonies might make the book more meaningful, but all in all, the book is enjoyable. A combination Western and mystery, the book provides adventure in the outdoors as well as the creepy feeling down your spine that makes a mystery good.