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Sacred Clowns

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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 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 decipher it, the two Navajo policemen may have to delve into closely guarded tribal secrets—on a sinister trail of blood that links a runaway, a holy artifact, corrupt Indian traders, and a pair of dead bodies.

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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 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 decipher it, the two Navajo policemen may have to delve into closely guarded tribal secrets—on a sinister trail of blood that links a runaway, a holy artifact, corrupt Indian traders, and a pair of dead bodies.

30 review for Sacred Clowns

  1. 4 out of 5

    Bobby Underwood

    Sacred Clowns is Tony Hillerman at his very 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. That crossroad for both men is fully explored during this one, each man's loneliness and their individual efforts to end it, poignantly painted by Hillerman in a mystery as good as any he ever p Sacred Clowns is Tony Hillerman at his very 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. That crossroad for both men is fully explored during this one, each man's loneliness and their individual efforts to end it, poignantly painted by Hillerman in a mystery as good as any he ever penned. Those who relish the way he educates the reader about Native American beliefs while entertaining us with a good mystery will not be disappointed. Perhaps more than any of his novels, Sacred Clowns gives us a better understanding of why the Navajo have survived, while so many other great tribes have all but disappeared. Chee's new assignment working directly for Leaphorn gets off to a shaky start when the former allows a missing boy to escape during a Tano ceremony soon after locating him. It is the boy's elusive nature, and a murder during the ceremony that kick off one of the most satisfying mysteries in this fabulous series. Leaphorn is still trying to move on after a terrible loss, and Chee is worried Janet may have a tie to his clan somewhere which would put an end to their romance. On the mystery side, a second murder turns this story into a complex puzzle which has Leaphorn and Chee going in different directions. Chee's carelessness at one point will even result in Leaphorn's suspension. Leaphorn's feelings regarding young Chee's conflicting spirit, torn between Navajo tradition and his career as a Navajo Tribal Policeman, are explored here as well. Chee will eventually weigh Navajo justice against the secular law he is sworn to uphold, and come to a startling decision. There is need and loneliness here for both men, Chee trying to begin, and Leaphorn attempting to start over. There is a depth and understanding mingling effortlessly in Sacred Clowns, a mystery engrossing enough to be of merit on its own. We've come to expect a lot of Hillerman's series, and this one really delivers. That magic blend of mystery and Native American beliefs, coupled with likable and very human characters is on glorious display in this one. The mystery is excellent, and you will come away from this one with a greater understanding of the Navajo and, perhaps, humanity. Highly recommended.

  2. 4 out of 5

    Carmen

    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 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 trying to be patient here. Chee is being a whiny baby about working for Leaphorn. It was irritating. What he was doing was one level under being a truant officer. Having Leaphorn as a boss was going to be a genuine pain. Just like people had warned him. Ugh. Stop sniveling and do your f*&^ing job. Now he was only conscious that Leaphorn hadn't been interested enough in his Sayesva theory to pursue it. He wasn't going to enjoy this job. I seriously did NOT know how much of this whining I could take. Luckily, Chee got over this and started acting like an actual police officer eventually. But forget about the mystery! Let's focus on the romance. What? Romance? Carmen. This is a mystery. You don't care about the mystery! You only want kissing! CARMEN: *innocent face* ANYWAY. Leaphorn is planning his trip to China with Louisa. He has such a crush on her. But he is rather nervous. Thinking of what Dilly had implied about sex with her. Thinking of all the things she was doing for him - taking him along as dead weight on this trip. What did he owe her for that? What would she expect? Fortunately, he has quite a bit of work to take his mind off of Louisa. And as for Chee, well, we've got a lot of problems in regards to his relationship with half-Navajo lawyer, Janet Pete. The good thing is, the couple has progressed from hugging in the last book to kissing. KISSING. Chee let his imagination wander. He saw himself scouting for the Seventh Calvary, shooting Cheyennes. The satisfaction in that fantasy lasted a few miles. He rehearsed his report to Leaphorn. He thought about Janet Pete. He thought about how the tip of her short-cut hair curled against her neck. He thought about the funny way she had of letting a smile start, letting him get a glimpse of it, and then suppressing it - pretending she hadn't appreciated his humor. He thought about her legs and hips in those tight jeans on the ladder above him at the Tano ceremonial. He thought about her kissing him, enthusiastically, and then catching his hand when... They are NOT having sex yet. Janet is not ready to have sex with him. They've known each other for two years. I really like when Janet talks about sex with Jim Chee. "When you're a certain age," she said, "when you're young, and you fall in love - or think you have - then you think that sex is the way you prove it. Prove that you're in love... But it doesn't prove a damn thing... What I'm saying is I know I like you. Maybe I like you a lot. Even an awful lot. But it doesn't have anything at all to do with... To be exactly correct, it doesn't have MUCH to do with your pearly white teeth, and your long, lean, lanky frame, and all those muscles. I started liking you because you're kind to people." "If I had known that, I would have been even kinder," Chee said. "But I'm not just going to be just another of Jim Chee's girlfriends." Okay, the good - I completely agree with her about kindness. Kindness is essential. I refuse to date men who don't have this sort of underlying kindness to them. Is the man kind? Is he merciful? Is he compassionate? I'm not talking about being a bleeding heart here. I just mean someone who does NOT intentionally hurt others and who shows mercy and compassion to people and animals. Any man without this underlying kindness is no good for any kind of relationship, IMO. I also agree with her about sex. Obviously she should be very sure she wants to have sex with Chee before she does so. 100% on board here. I'm glad she's waiting and is not rushing into sex with him. But I'm angry with her snide "I'm not going to be just another of your girlfriends" comments. Throughout this book she makes it clear that she is very convinced that Chee is some sort of playboy. This baffles me. This is the 11th book by Hillerman and let me say that I have seen ZERO indications that Chee is a womanizer. ZERO. He has had only one other girlfriend in this series, and she was a serious, meaningful relationship for him. I'm baffled as to why Janet is staunchly convinced that Jim Chee is a dog. ??? Where did she even get this idea? I don't know. They never explain this. I'm insulted. I'm insulted on Chee's behalf. There's also a whole plot about whether Chee can even be with Janet or if being with Janet would be incest. It's a long story, but the taboo against incest is strong in the Navajo, and there are 65 Navajo clans (according to Hillerman in this novel) and one has to check one's parents and grandparents and those of one's partner before engaging in sex with them. Because everyone is interrelated and the community is very interwoven. I ALSO don't like how insecure Jim Chee is about Janet. He gets insecure whenever any other man comes around. Not jealous, not possessive, but kind of "What does she see in me again?" and "I'm not good enough for her" and etc. etc. Very unattractive. I was yelling at him to cut this shit out. Also, we have this disgustingness: Chee was watching Janet. She said nothing, which pleased him. That was properly polite Navajo. Like Blizzard, she was an urban product. City bred, city raised, Navajo only by her father's blood. She had to learn what it was like to be one of the Dineh. He would help teach her. Happily. Lovingly. If she would let him. FUCK YOU. You're going to teach her to be the perfect little Navajo? Go fuck yourself. This is insulting. If they start getting serious and he continues with this shit I am going to be very angry with him. Now, let's talk about Jim Chee. This is the first book in which Jim Chee has done something mensch-like: he's shown mercy on someone. I won't spoil it, but my heart started to beat faster when it became apparent that Jim Chee was considering being merciful. This is a highly attractive quality in a man and for the first time Jim Chee was making me a little excited. He's not even close to being a mensch yet (although he is a good man) and I'm excited to think he may develop more mensch-like qualities as this series continues. Tl;dr - A solid and rather sweet entry in Hillerman's Navajo Mystery series.

  3. 5 out of 5

    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?

  4. 5 out of 5

    Glen

    When Jim Chee tries to make time with his woman while on a stakeout, not only does she bring another man with her, he loses his quarry, plus a clown is murdered right under his nose. A substitute teacher is also killed. There are a lot of red herrings, but Chee and Leaphorn eventually get to the bottom of things.

  5. 5 out of 5

    David Bryant

    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, 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, are beautifully and lovingly portrayed. I was quite touched. The crime story is typical and yet unique, a good read, and suitably puzzling to the end (at least it was for me). So the ending becomes quite satisfying once the plotlines get resolved. An unusual twist reveals a sympathetic Jim Chee seeming to undermine the wheels of justice, but in a way that appeals to our humanity and sympathy for the unfortunate. All in all, a very satisfying way to spend a few hours.

  6. 4 out of 5

    Carol

    First Read: 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 Indian lore. I have always been partial to the western United States and I enjoy reading good mysteries First Read: 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 Indian lore. I have always been partial to the western United States and I enjoy reading good mysteries. Hillerman is first rate and Sacred Clowns does not disappoint. I'm a NM Native so I know a lot of the areas he is writing about and can picture the areas around us. Second Read: A teacher is found dead, a boy is missing, and council woman has put a lot of pressure on Lieutenant Joe Leaphorn and Officer Jim Chee to find her grandson. Sitting on a rooftop watching sacred clowns perform their antics in a Pueblo Ceremony, Chee spots the boy. Then, suddenly the crowd is in commotion. One of the clowns has been savagely murdered. Without a single clue, Chee and Leaphorn must follow a serpentine trail through the Indian clans and nations, seeking the thread that links two brutal murders, a missing teenager, and band of lobbyists trying to put a toxic dump site on Pueblo land, and an invaluable memento given to the tribes by Abraham Lincoln in a fast paced, flawless mystery that is Hillerman at his evocative spellbinding best. This is a really good book, and obviously a long time since I've read it (nearly 20 years). The gentleman that played the narrator - Christian Baskous had the accent he needed that was just perfect. I could hear the Indian dialect in his voice, and when he needed to speak Navajo, it was perfect. I live in an area where there are lots of Indians, and I hear it spoken quite often. Well done book, and highly recommended.

  7. 4 out of 5

    Judy

    I always enjoy when Hillerman compares two cultures. Even though he explains that the Pueblo rituals he describes in this book aren't accurate, they do capture the basic beliefs and customs. Here, too, a city-bred Cheyenne makes an appearance and the movie Cheyenne Autumn is briefly described as it might appear thru Navajo eyes. (Apparently Navajos were used in many of the scenes.) Leaphorn and Chee are still trying to understand each other, and their relationships with Louise and Janet progress I always enjoy when Hillerman compares two cultures. Even though he explains that the Pueblo rituals he describes in this book aren't accurate, they do capture the basic beliefs and customs. Here, too, a city-bred Cheyenne makes an appearance and the movie Cheyenne Autumn is briefly described as it might appear thru Navajo eyes. (Apparently Navajos were used in many of the scenes.) Leaphorn and Chee are still trying to understand each other, and their relationships with Louise and Janet progress realistically. The many strands of the mystery are neatly interwoven and the violence isn't overwhelming. Good story. p 274: This business of hozho. ... I'll use an example. Terrible drought, crops dead, sheep dying. Spring dried out. No water. The Hopi, or the Christian, maybe the Moslem, they pray for rain. The Navajo has the proper ceremony done to restore himself to harmony with the drought. ... The system is designed to recognize what's beyond human power to change, and then to change the human's attitude to be content with the inevitable."

  8. 4 out of 5

    Richard

    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. 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. Hillerman created over many years. Some of them were made into TV movies. I think I have read all his fiction now, and can start on the nonan-fiction.

  9. 5 out of 5

    Hidey

    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 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 arcs, coincidences that provide clues.

  10. 5 out of 5

    John R. Goyer

    An excellent blend of storylines and characters - I really enjoy the writing and the background information on Navajo traditions that Mr Hillerman weaves into his stories. Great characters and a pleasure to watch the story unfold.

  11. 4 out of 5

    Craig Monson

    Tony Hillerman had been writing mysteries for over 20 years by the time he got around to Sacred Clowns. He was on top form, though maybe a little less “poetic” and a little more “didactic” than earlier on? In his earliest books it sometimes seemed as if he were writing for the Dinee as well as about them. A disapproving elderly (Dinee English for “old person”) might say “he behaves like he’s got no family,” without further explanation for outsiders of the broader cultural implications of that co Tony Hillerman had been writing mysteries for over 20 years by the time he got around to Sacred Clowns. He was on top form, though maybe a little less “poetic” and a little more “didactic” than earlier on? In his earliest books it sometimes seemed as if he were writing for the Dinee as well as about them. A disapproving elderly (Dinee English for “old person”) might say “he behaves like he’s got no family,” without further explanation for outsiders of the broader cultural implications of that common, disparaging comment. Relaxed conversations would drift on for page after page, without asides on the nature of Dinee storytelling. Perhaps an editor suggested Anglo readers needed to feel less like outsiders? By contrast with most other Hillerman mysteries, Pueblo culture (“Tano,” probably better known as Tewa or Hopi) figures prominently in the plotting here, alongside the customary Dinee. With both peoples, cultural details are not simply local color but help to drive plot. The Pueblo black-and-white striped koshare or “sacred clowns” are comical tellers of uncomfortable truths. (E.g., at a recent ceremony at Ohkay Owingeh pueblo, their antics concerned child abuse among Catholic clergy.) In this case, one such truth prompts two murders, whose investigation is hindered in interesting ways by Tewa traditions of secrecy, both within the community and (especially) within the men’s religious societies. Aspects of Dinee cosmology are central to the “solving” of another crime: a potentially insoluble hit-and-run on the Dinee reservation. The sorting out of that second crime in terms of the essential Dinee concept of hozhoo (beauty, balance, symmetry, rightness) is interesting to think about in an Anglo legal system based on a minimum of law, observed absolutely (at least in theory). The Dinee-Anglo cultural contrasts and confusions play out in Hillerman’s usual interesting and amusing ways. E.g., half-Anglo (Janet Peet’s) and Cheyenne (Blizzard’s) incomprehension of Dinee delight during a screening of John Ford’s Cheyenne Autumn, in which Dinee extras, dressed up in bucksin and feathers, supposedly sing Cheyenne laments, but in fact perform songs from what Hillerman calls a “Girl Dance” (actually, a circle dance of a type called nezhnotaha). (The same thing happens, in fact, in Ford’s The Searchers where, in a tight spot, John Wayne identifies a Comanche, impending “Death Song,” but Dinee extras on screen once again sing a nezhnotaha) This is also the first time Leaphorn and Jim Chee are discovering how to work together up close and personal. Leaphorn, his wife no longer there (the Dinee probably wouldn’t say “dead,” as Hillerman does), is becoming more involved with his new, anthropologist lady friend, while Chee is hot and bothered over Janet Peet (who, let’s face it, we know isn’t right for him). Given Chee’s attachment to tribal traditions, it’s a little hard to believe he’d have waited this long to raise the supremely important issue of his and Janet’s respective clans, an aspect of Dinee tradition that drives what proves to be an unusually prominent romantic sub-plot this time. Criminal issues get resolved handily enough by the end; the romantic ones remain unsettled.

  12. 4 out of 5

    Brian

    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 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 useless beauty/ We wait/and wait/This morning a National Guard helicopter/like a great thunderbird/brought food and news of neighbors/"I dont know why you live out here"/the white pilot said/He didn't hear over the rotor's chop/when I explained that we belong to the land/That we came here with Badger's help/out of the ha'axna, the emergence place/and we call this world/Glittering World, Changeable World/Thought and knowledge, light and dark/warm and cold, birth and death/are given to us/We live in bituminous silence/But we belong to the land

  13. 5 out of 5

    David

    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 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 internet research to discover if there really are "Lincoln canes"-- canes given by Abraham Lincoln to the governors\chiefs of certain Pueblo and Navajo tribes\clans as a token of appreciation for their support during the American Civil War. If they actually exist, then Hillerman introduced me to another facet of history and I owe him. The book is strong on characterization, though it seems, at times, as if police work can quickly be done if a cop gets "on a roll" and this left me less than satisfying for me.

  14. 4 out of 5

    Paul

    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 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 Indian lore. I used to visit that area frequently with my family on our way to AZ to visit my grandparents or on work trips with my Dad when he would collect health care data from small towns bordering of UT. I have always been partial to the western United States and I enjoy reading good mysteries. Hillerman is first rate and Sacred Clowns does not disappoint.

  15. 4 out of 5

    Betty

    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 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 friends to join them. Needless to said he loose the boy and is present when the boy's uncle is MURDER. Meanwhile Joe Leaphorn is helping the FBI with a MURDER at the school. These affairs are skillfully brought together as one. I highly recommend this book .

  16. 4 out of 5

    Nancy

    Leaphorn and Chee are both at crossroads with their ladies and professionally. Widowed Leaphorn is unsure of where his relationship with Louisa is headed and what a trip overseas with her would entail, and Janet is taking her relationship slow with Chee to his frustration. When a murder of a teacher occurs on the reservation, Chee has to work for Leaphorn instead of parallel to him as in previous cases. Tribal politics and clan taboos come into play in the narrative, and was a strong book in the Leaphorn and Chee are both at crossroads with their ladies and professionally. Widowed Leaphorn is unsure of where his relationship with Louisa is headed and what a trip overseas with her would entail, and Janet is taking her relationship slow with Chee to his frustration. When a murder of a teacher occurs on the reservation, Chee has to work for Leaphorn instead of parallel to him as in previous cases. Tribal politics and clan taboos come into play in the narrative, and was a strong book in the series.

  17. 4 out of 5

    Shannon

    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...

  18. 4 out of 5

    John McDonald

    Joe Leaphorn and Jim Chee, both skeptical of the other but nonetheless working together very effectively to solve the mystery of a koshkare being murdered, are both in love and perplexed about how to work and become romantically involved, both at the same time. This is the novel where Chee works with Leaphorn for the first time and where Chee discovers that, but for the rigidity of the Bad Talking Dinee's rules about marriage to someone of a related clan, he would relate to Janet Pete in a way th Joe Leaphorn and Jim Chee, both skeptical of the other but nonetheless working together very effectively to solve the mystery of a koshkare being murdered, are both in love and perplexed about how to work and become romantically involved, both at the same time. This is the novel where Chee works with Leaphorn for the first time and where Chee discovers that, but for the rigidity of the Bad Talking Dinee's rules about marriage to someone of a related clan, he would relate to Janet Pete in a way that would lead to marriage. Chee and Leaphorn, in love but clueless about how to be in love, have a crime to solve, even as Leaphorn is suspended from his job while a question of discipline hangs over him. In typical fashion, though, Chee and his reliance upon hozso in all things enters into the solution of the crime and a resolution of the love issues both he and Leaphorn face. Chee tells Leaphorn that "it was because of how you understand the Beauty Way. This busness of hozho, the way I understand it . . . the Hopi, or the Christian, maybe the Moslem, they pray for rain. The Navojo has the proper ceremony done to restore himself to harmony with the drought. You see what I mean. The system is designed to recognize what's beyond human power to change, and then to change the human's attitude to be content with the inevitable." This philosophy--living in balance with all things and deriving harmony in one's life because harmony exists in all those other things and people around you--is the fundamental concept of peace found in almost every system of religious, spiritual, philosophic, and even political thought. It is what each of us should strive for in our personal lives and make that contribution to the harmony of the family, the community, the nation and world, even. It is the secret that civilizations have sought since human beings came into existence and has been elusive for humans ever since. The beauty of it, from the Navajo view which Hillerman describes in all his novels with love, respect, and appreciation, is the simplicity of how hozho is stated, how it can be understood and how it can be practiced, even by tribal cops. For Chee and Leaphorn, possessing hozho and practicing it, helps solve crimes and ferrets out love. What better balance and harmony than that can there be?

  19. 5 out of 5

    Elly Sands

    Ha! I thought this was my first Hillerman book only to discover I read it in 2009. Odd that I chose the same book. I do give it the same rating of 3 stars mainly because I felt tangled up in who is who and who did what. I had trouble keeping the names straight but I suppose that's just me. I totally enjoyed learning various facts about native american culture. How often I have seen here in the southwest those striped figures of Koshares and had no idea what these "clowns" meant and now I know . Ha! I thought this was my first Hillerman book only to discover I read it in 2009. Odd that I chose the same book. I do give it the same rating of 3 stars mainly because I felt tangled up in who is who and who did what. I had trouble keeping the names straight but I suppose that's just me. I totally enjoyed learning various facts about native american culture. How often I have seen here in the southwest those striped figures of Koshares and had no idea what these "clowns" meant and now I know . What I was fascinated with was the Navajo belief system and philosophy of "Hozho"-living a life of goodness, peace and harmony. Before reading this Hozho was just a name of a shopping area here in Sedona. I read this to the end but just for the education of the story and not particularly for the mystery.

  20. 5 out of 5

    Maria

    I love Tony Hillerman books. I was surprised that I haven't read this one. I love the carefully-constructed plot and the side story with Chee and his girlfriend and Leaphorn and his. The only "quarrel" I have with Hillerman books is that (a) there aren't enough of them and (b) the quantity of confusing names keeps me confused. I need a score card so I can remember who's who. But that's just me.

  21. 5 out of 5

    Bill Donhiser

    Very well done Navajo detective Thriller as with all of Tony Hillerman's books it brings to life the beauty of the Southwest. Good characters excellent story

  22. 4 out of 5

    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 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 Hillerman being quite this elliptical...."), but I honestly didn't see how the Guy What Done It could NOT have known about the (SPOILER). I forgot whether or not he was that familiar with "Tano Pueblo," but the (SPOILER) seemed famous enough it just didn't work that as a major plot point he wouldn't've known about it at all....However, the emotional connections -- between Chee and Janet, Leaphorn and Janet, Leaphorn and Chee, even Leaphorn and Virgie -- more than make up for that, and TH's descriptions of the Southwest are, as ever, spot-on and beautiful. I had originally put off reading this book because while Hopi religious practices aren't supposed to be written about, the Tano seem fairly clearly modelled on the Hopi, to the point where Hillerman thanks "Dr Louis Hieb of the University of Arizona, the author of many works on the koshare and the ritual clowns of the Hopi" in a special author's note. But then he immediately writes, "However, Tano is not a Hopi village and the descriptions in this book do not represent Hopi religious activities." This seemed like such an underhanded way of writing-but-not-really about the Hopi that it almost threw me out of the book entirely, before I'd even started reading it. (Several characters in the book itself, including Chee, also remark on the gosh-golly similarity between the Tano and Hopi.) I just found it really hard to stomach a white outside observer, however sympathetic, writing "What one sees of Tano ceremonialism herein is a melding of the author's experience at other pueblos." I wanted to smack Hillerman with a copy of Said's Orientalism. For all that, Hopi/Tano ceremonialism doesn't really play a large part in the book, except for some plot points, and the focus is really much more on the Navajo, and while the Navajo people I knew in NM were a little less sombre and more sarcastic than Hillerman's main characters (granted, I never knew any tribal policemen) I do like the way he approaches the culture with respect, while at the same time without all the "Mother Earth Father Sky" white translatorese BS. Hillerman, and Chee, spend a fair amount of time on a seemingly unrelated-to-the-major-plot hit-and-run incident, but by the end of the book you see how connected it actually is to everything else that's been going on, which itself serves as a lesson about the interconnectedness of life. Also, this is the book with the famous description of John Ford's Cheyenne Autumn, in which the Cheyenne are all played by Navajo (wherever Ford's Westerns were supposedly set, they were all filmed in AZ, and all usually starred Navajo as Cheyenne, Apache, Sioux, &c &c). Chee and Janet see it at the drive-in with a Cheyenne FBI/BIA agent, and the cross-cultural disconnect between the three of them is a neat metaphor for cultural appropriation in general, and is thematically referred to throughout the book. (There is also a really nice moment, which probably nobody but NM people would get, when Chee discovers the Cheyenne agent reading a Roger Zelazny paperback.) (Also also, the reference to 'the mysterious presence of a sacred artifact' in the book's description is completely bogus.)

  23. 4 out of 5

    Amber Foxx

    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 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 back into balance and harmony, hozho. Sacred Clowns is a story of people, culture, place, history, love and family, in which the protagonists are Navajo police dealing with three deaths and finding a runaway teenaged boy. The theme underlying all of it is the Navajo way, hozho, the need for it within a person’s soul and within a community. Officer Jim Chee is a strongly traditional young man, which brings him into inner conflict as a policeman, and as a man who has to live in the modern world. His values lead him to support an environmental cause, to seek advice from tribal elders on his hope to marry a woman of uncertain clan history, and to take the Navajo way of handling a difficult case that he solves. This book is gentle for a murder mystery. The violence takes place offstage, and neither Leaphorn or Chee is involved in any life-threatening situation during the course of their detective work. The process of solving the crimes is compelling without that. The private lives of both men are also central to the story, as they get closer to the women in their lives—a poignant transition for the widower Leaphorn. Hillerman the master craftsman fascinates me. He wraps up a plot thread concerning a missing half-Navajo half-Tano Pueblo boy with a conversation between the boy’s grandmother and Joe Leaphorn, before Leaphorn finally gets the boy to talk. The grandmother’s words are elided with the line “Leaphorn listened,” every time, and then he explains the next thing to the grandmother. Perfect in both rhythm and content. Her words aren’t needed. His reassurances are enough, and those words, Leaphorn listened, repeated in that way, say so much about his character. Hillerman’s choice to create a fictitious Pueblo makes sense. I once heard Taos musician Robert Mirabal say that secret and sacred, to the Pueblo people, mean the same thing. Hillerman respects that. He sets part of the story at his fictitious Tano Pueblo, so that a murder doesn’t take place during a community religious ceremony at a real place. The description of this Pueblo and its people is perfect nonetheless, one of his many living and vivid New Mexico moments. These lines stood out for me, as a New Mexican who knows the setting well. “She led them across the hard-packed yard toward an adobe. It slouched under an immense cottonwood which looked almost as old as the building. A fringe of ragweeds and Russian thistle growing on its dirt roof gave it a disreputable, unshaven appearance. But the paint on the window frames was a fresh turquoise blue and geraniums were blooming in boxes beside the door.” Been there, seen that. Loved it. I read this book many years ago, and it’s as good now as it was then—somehow, even better a second time.

  24. 5 out of 5

    Nolan

    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 lawyer. One of the features of the ceremony is the appearance of a 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 lawyer. One of the features of the ceremony is the appearance of a "sacred clown," a comically dressed figure with a wagon filled with things that remind the people of ways in which they have strayed from the ancient religion and participated in greed and other spiritually disrupting things. As the ceremony progresses, the clown figure is killed, and of course it's up to Chee and Leaphorn to figure out how and by whom. Hillerman's understanding of Navajo and intertribal cultures and relationships is as vast as the southwest deserts where his stories occur. The plot moves nicely. I would caution you against thinking you can casually beach read this. First, you don't ever want to casually beach read Hillerman. He has far too much to offer as a writer for you to cheat yourself like that. There are subplots here that will become rapidly confusing if you go casual on this. In one subplot, Chee falls hard for the sophisticated lawyer with the Navajo dad and the white mom. He wants to be a medicine man for his people, and he realizes that if she's from the wrong clan, his desire to kiss and cuddle the lawyer would be considered incestuous by the more orthodox and more strictly spiritual of his people-the very people he needs to impress if he is to become the medicine man he wants to be. The more I read of Hillerman's books, the more I appreciate his keen observation skills. He must have been one of the most entertaining thoughtful conversationalists out there. You see what you imagine to be Hillerman in Joe Leaphorn. There's real pathos here as Joe adjusts to the death of his wife Emma and the possibility of experiencing love for the first time since her death. If you read Hillerman's biography, you will see his intense lifelong love for his wife reflected in Joe Leaphorn. While this is a series, you can dip in and out of it randomly without harming your ability to enjoy the books.

  25. 5 out of 5

    Kate

    "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 "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 tumbled down from the rooftops to ape the foolishness of humankind. At first, the crowd welcomes this troupe of sacred clowns with laughter. But something in one clown's red wagon hushes the crowd. And then murder strikes at Tano. "To Office Chee and Lieutenant Leaphorn, now working as an uneasy team, the solution to the killing at the mission school seems straightforward, and the death at Tano seems to be out of their jurisdiction. But the odd behavior of a runaway student connects the two crimes and shows that neither is what it seems. Chee and Leaphorn's search for the truth propels theminto a realm where battles as old as humanity's foibles and as new as its high technology are fought to the death. "Sacred Clowns brims with subtly drawn personalities, revealing glimpses into proud, ancient cultures, crystaline evocations of the Southwest's stark beauty, and taut yet lyrical prose. It is, simply, Tony Hillerman at his best." ~~front & back flaps I love Tony Hillerman's work. That's because I love the Southwest, and reading his books always takes me back there. They may not be great literature, but they're wonderful escapes into a magical land. I reread Sacred Clowns because I just listened to it on audiobooks. The audiobook was a terrible rendition, and I reread the book to refresh my memory. Turns out the audiobook was extremely faithful to the book, but so jumbled that you hardly knew where you were most of the time. Read the book, & never mind the audio book!

  26. 4 out of 5

    Susan Peine

    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 setting...it'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 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 setting...it'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 interesting for me to see what has changed on the reservation from 30 years ago, when his earlier books were published, to today. I know that the books are fiction, but they truly hit the mark when describing much of what I see out here. The mysteries themselves aren't the most interesting, Hillerman tends to wrap them up quite neatly within the last twenty pages or so of each book. What I enjoy, rather than the mysteries themselves, is the way in which the two characters, Chee and Leaphorn, wrestle with solving the cases as well as solving their own personal dilemmas that surround them at the same time. If I can find any more used copy at the thrift store in town (or Kindle prices go down), I'll keep reading others that he's written.

  27. 5 out of 5

    Jesse Whitehead

    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 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 roll as Leaphorn’s junior and Leaphorn unsure of trusting a new associate. It’s quite a contrast to the later books where they are both veterans of reservation detective work. In this case there have been a couple of murders, and a counterfeit Lincoln cane. There is also a drive-by fatality with a twist and a cast of characters that are made to inspire empathy and instant recognition. Hillerman also sneaks in a little bit of lessons about Navajo and Hopi cultures. I would recommend this book to anybody, just like I would recommend any of Tony Hillerman’s books. This early one hasn’t picked up the writing quirks of the later books that make me twitch and the mystery will keep you guessing.

  28. 5 out of 5

    astaliegurec

    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 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 starts until darn near the end, it's almost like someone yelled "dog pile on Chee!" I suppose that Chee's difficulties allow an examination of some interesting conflicts between Navajo and bilagaana philosophies. But, still.... Also, I found there to be a bit too much politics in this book. Again, interesting, but not to my taste. Hillerman's "Leaphorn & Chee" novels are: 1. The Blessing Way 2. Dance Hall of the Dead 3. Listening Woman 4. People of Darkness 5. The Dark Wind 6. The Ghostway (Jim Chee Novels) 7. Skinwalkers 8. A Thief of Time 9. Talking God 10. Coyote Waits 11. Sacred Clowns: Novel, A 12. The Fallen Man 13. The First Eagle 14. Hunting Badger 15. The Wailing Wind 16. The Sinister Pig 17. Skeleton Man 18. The Shape Shifter

  29. 5 out of 5

    Orville Jenkins

    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 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 ceremony, and while trying to get to him through the crowd, he comes upon the murder. The murder victim is a Sacred Clown. Myth and culture of the intersecting Native cultures of New Mexico come to life in this rich tale. The rich background cultures come through as major players in the mystery. The interaction of the different tribes enriches the tapestry of the story and provides insight in to the cultural distinctiveness of each Native people. Gil Silverbird's superb vocal dramatization is spot on as expected!

  30. 5 out of 5

    Brianna

    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 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 is an excellent author. He is witty and engaging. He is a wonderful writer who comes up with the coolest story lines. Do it! Read the book, because who knows what new world one might fall into? What interesting characters with interesting lives you might meet and fall in love with? You won't know if you like it unless you give it a try. You won't know if you love them unless you crack open the cover and say "Chapter One...." What's the worst that could happen? The universe could implode.... but that's very unlikely. Honestly, what have you got to lose?

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