Allison's Book Bag

Current Reads #23: The Blessing Way by Tony Hillerman

Posted on: January 19, 2015

MusingMondaysWhat are you reading right now?
What do you think of it?
Why did you chose it?

The top shelf of my bedroom bookcase contains mostly books recommended to me by my husband. Number one on his list of loans to me was The Blessing Way by Tony Hillerman. Andy is a fan of crime novels. He thought The Blessing Way might have particular appeal to me, because of its multicultural landscape.

My first question to Andy was about authenticity: Hillerman is Caucasian, but his main character is a Navajo cop whose beat is the Navajo Reservation. Hillerman is known for the cultural details he provides about his subjects. But are they accurate? A brief online confirms that they are, including the book’s title. The Blessing Way refers to one half of the major Navajo song ceremonial complexes, the other half being the Enemy Way. The song cycles recount the elaborate Navajo creation story. Hillerman has acknowledged his debt to a series of mystery novels by the British-born Australian author Arthur W. Upfield. That author’s novels featured a half-aboriginal Australian hero who worked with deep understanding of tribal traditions, much as Hillerman’s characters do. Finally, Hillerman has also received many awards recognizing the authenticity of his novels: American Indian Ambassador, Silver Spur, and Navajo Tribe Special Friend.

Assured of the authenticity, I settled to read The Blessing Way. A victim is found with a mouth full of sand in an isolated spot. The crime scene is devoid of tracks or any other clues. In his investigation, Navajo Tribal Police Lieutenant Joe Leaphorn finds himself torn between belief in a real murderer and a supernatural killer. Being used to novels that are told from a single viewpoint, the first few chapters proved a struggle. Once I figured out all the speakers, however, the unique culture and the weird mystery riveted me. Besides the investigation itself, I most enjoyed the storyline involving an anthropologist friend of Leaphorn who returned to the reservation to continue his witchcraft research and Miss Leon who is looking for her scientist boyfriend. This latter storyline involves threats, flights on foot and by vehicle, and an eventual capture. By this point, I was unable to put the book down and read straight to the last page despite the late hour.

Hillerman’s first book with Harper & Row was The Blessing Way, published in 1970. After that, he wrote many more novels, most featuring Joe Leaphorn and Jim Chee of the Navajo Tribal Police. Sadly, Hillerman died in 2008. Should you became a fan, though, eighteen books are awaiting you!

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4 Responses to "Current Reads #23: The Blessing Way by Tony Hillerman"

I love those Hillerman books and have read them all! I used to live in Arizona and whenever we were traveling and had to pass the four corners area, I was always watching for landmarks from the books.

Today I celebrate the birthday of Edgar Allan Poe (January 19, 1809 – October 7, 1849) at http://wp.me/pZnGI-hs

How fun that you used to live in Arizona! The one time I’ve been there, I loved the colors and the landscape.

Isn’t it neat when you recognize places from books? It gives both more meaning!

Thanks for your visit. Off now to read your post!

I missed the green when I lived in Arizona. Now, gone about eight years, I miss the desert. Never satisfied, lol.

Maybe it’s just getting used to different places. I miss the mountains, the trees, and the large bodies of water from my home province. If I were to ever permanently move back, there are things I’d probably miss about the Midwest. I’ve gotten used to the flatness of the Midwest, the wildlife parks, and other stuff too.

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