The Blessing Way (Joe Leaphorn and Jim Chee Series #1)

The Blessing Way (Joe Leaphorn and Jim Chee Series #1)

by Tony Hillerman

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High on the desolate mesa they found the body.  The mouth was filled with sand.  No tracks, no clues.  Every Navajo knew that nothing human killed like that.

Rumors of witchcraft and the supernatural are nothing new to Lt. Joe Leaphorn of the Navajo Tribal Police.  He and anthropologist Bergen McKee had stalked the Wolf-Witch before.  Always it had eluded them, vanishing like a ghost on the wind.  But never had it left such a horrifying trail of murder.

For Lt. Leaphorn, the case was a baffling challenge to his logic.  For Bergen McKee, it was a problem of academic concern. Now, no longer is tracking the Navajo Wolf simply a challenge - now it's a matter of life and death.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780785773900
Publisher: Turtleback Books: A Division of Sanval
Publication date: 02/28/1990
Series: Joe Leaphorn and Jim Chee Series , #1
Pages: 304
Product dimensions: 4.46(w) x 6.98(h) x 1.07(d)
Age Range: 12 - 17 Years

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.


Albuquerque, New Mexico

Date of Birth:

May 27, 1925

Date of Death:

October 26, 2008

Place of Birth:

Sacred Heart, Oklahoma

Place of Death:

Albuquerque, New Mexico


B.A., University of Oklahoma, 1946; M.A., University of New Mexico, 1966

Read an Excerpt

Chapter One

Luis Horseman leaned the flat stone very carefully against the piñon twig, adjusted its balance exactly and then cautiously withdrew his hand. The twig bent, but held. Horseman rocked back on his heels and surveyed the deadfall. He should have put a little more blood on the twig, he thought, but it might be enough. He had placed this one just right, with the twig at the edge of the kangaroo rat's trail. The least nibble and the stone would fall. He reached into his shirt front, pulled out a leather pouch, extracted an odd-shaped lump of turquoise, and placed it on the ground in front of him. Then he started to sing:

"The Sky it talks about it.
TheTalking God One he tells about it.
The Darkness to Be One knows about it.
The Talking God is with me.
With the Talking God I kill the male game."

There was another part of the song, but Horseman couldn't remember it.He sat very still, thinking. Something about the Black God, but he couldn't think how it went. The Black God didn't have anything to do with game, but his uncle had said you have to put it in about him to make the chant come out right. He stared at the turquoise bear. It said nothing. He glanced at his watch. It, was almost six. By the time he got back to the rimrock it would be late enough to make a little fire, dark enough to hide the smoke. Now he must finish this.

"The dark horn of the bica,
No matter who would do evil to me,
The evil shall not harm me.
The dark horn is a shield of beaten buckskin."

Horseman chanted in a barely audible voice, just loud enoughto be heard in the minds of the animals.

"That evil which the Ye-i turned toward me
cannot reach me through the dark horn,
through the shield the bica carries.
It brings me harmony with the male game.
It makes the male game hear my heartbeat.
From four directions they trot toward me.
They step and turn their sides toward me.

So my arrow misses bone when I shoot.
The death of male game comes toward me.
The blood of male game will wash my body.
The male game will obey my thoughts."

He replaced the turquoise bear in the medicine pouch and rose stiffly to his feet. He was pretty sure that wasn't the right song. It was for deer, he thought. To make the deer come out where you could shoot them. But maybe the kangaroo rats would hear it, too. He looked carefully across the plateau, searching the foreground first, then the mid-distance, finally the great green slopes of the Lukachukai Mountains, which rose to the east. Then he moved away from the shelter of the stunted juniper and walked rapidly northwestward, moving silently and keeping to the bottom of the shallow arroyos when he could. He walked gracefully and silently. Suddenly he stopped. The corner of his eye had caught motion on the floor of the Kam Bimghi Valley. Far below him and a dozen miles to the west, a puff of dust was suddenly visible against a formation of weathered red rocks. It might be a dust devil, kicked up by one of the Hard Flint Boys playing their tricks on the Wind Children. But it was windless now. The stillness of late afternoon had settled over the eroded waste below him.

Must have been a truck, Horseman thought, and the feeling of dread returned. He moved cautiously out of the wash behind a screen of piñons and stood motionless, examining the landscape below him. Far to the west, Bearer of the Sun had moved down the sky and was outlining in brilliant white the form of a thunderhead over Hoskininie Mesa. The plateau where Horseman stood was in its shadow but the slanting sunlight still lit the expanse of the Kam Bimghi. There was no dust by the red rocks now, and Horseman wondered if his eyes had tricked him. Then he saw it again. A puff of dust moving slowly across the valley floor. A truck, Horseman thought, or a car. It would be on that track that came across the slick rocks and branched out toward Horse Fell and Many Ruins Canyon, and now to Tall Poles Butte where the radar station was. It must be a truck, or a jeep. That track wasn't much even in good weather. Horseman watched intently. In a minute he could tell.

And if it turned toward Many Ruins Canyon, he would move cast across the plateau and up into the Lukachukais. And that would mean being hungry.

The dust disappeared as the vehicle dropped into one of the mazes of arroyos which cut the valley into a crazy quilt of erosion. Then he saw it again and promptly lost it where the track wound to the west of Natani Tso, the great flat-topped lava butte which dominated the north end of the valley. Almost five minutes passed before he saw the dust again.

"Ho," Horseman said, and relaxed. The truck had turned toward Tall Poles. It would be the Army people who watched the radar place. He moved away from the tree, trotting now. He was hungry and there was a porcupine to singe, clean, and roast before he would eat.

Luis Horseman had chosen this camp with care. Here the plateau was cut by one of the hundred nameless canyons which drained into the depth of Many Ruins Canyon. Along the rim, the plateau's granite cap, its sandstone support eroded away, had fractured under its own weight. Some of these great blocks of stone had crashed into the canyon bottom, leaving behind room-sized gaps in the rimrock. Others had merely tilted and slid. Behind one of these, Horseman knelt over his fire. It was a small fire, built in the extreme corner of the natural enclosure.

Table of Contents

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Blessing Way 3.9 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 106 reviews.
BJVPhilly More than 1 year ago
I've read all the Leaphorn-Chee novels, but had I started at the beginning with "The Blessing Way" (the first Leaphorn novel), I may not have gone any further. I thoroughly enjoy a good, well-written mystery, and most of Hillerman's work is quite enjoyable. But this one is a bit below par. Lieutenant Joe Leaphorn is not even the central character and is only involved in a cursory manner. And although I like the way Hillerman weaves Navajo mysticism into his plotting, "The Blessing Way" was predominantly navajo lore with a (somewhat shallow) mystery thrown in. The plot in itself was never enough to engage me fully, and the character development that is done so well in Hillerman's subsequent Leaphorn novels is just not quite there yet. But if this is your first Hillerman novel, don't give up; some of those that follow are among the best mysteries I've ever read.
Guest More than 1 year ago
With the Arizona Sunsets, the Sandstone Cliffs, and miles of sheep country comes a mystery that will leave you in suspense and guessing how to solve a murder in indian country. Tony Hillerman brings Navajoland to life, and writes the book you just can't put down.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I saw this in the bookstore over ten years ago and loved the original artwork. I bought it, loved the book, and went back to the store and bought every book of the series available at that time. I still have every single book in the Navajo Series and have read them all at least three times. I miss Tony Hillerman very, very much! :(
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Am a big fan of chee and Leaphorn so wanted to get the first in the series to get their story lines from the beginning. This book is too many incidental characters, too many myths, too many ceremonies, too many locations -- "name" overload! Up to page 51, very little Leaphorn, no Chee. Too exhausting to finish! Still love Hillerman amd series, but will get some later books in the series. Maybe they won't be so frustrating.
Author_of_The_Wham_Curse More than 1 year ago
Another great Hillerman story. I love the work that Tony Hillerman produced. The incorporation of Navajo history, beliefs, and modern life on the reservation add reality and interest to his stories. The Blessing Way continuous this in a very good story. This was a "can't put it down" book for me. If you haven't read his Chee/Leephorn books, you need to do it. I love having Joe Leaphorn questioning his own normally cynical view of Navajo spiritualiity.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I think he was going to have a different hero and then the other characters took over as the books continued wish they had made more movies llove the land but sure wouldnt want to live there by the mississippi
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Read them all and loved them all tony passed away several years ago learned a lot
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
It took much too long to get to the point. Leaphorn was not present in the story much, he was the most engaging character and it would have been more interesting if he was more involved. I found myself skimming impatiently to finish some sections. Probably won't read another of this series.
BlissfulRhythm More than 1 year ago
This book really sucked me into the storyline and I couldn't put it down for three days! I definitely recommend it if you like mysteries and are interested in Navajo culture.
Anonymous 4 days ago
good story if you like ghost stories!
JoAnnSmithAinsworth on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
One of his best, I think.
LisaMaria_C on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Some mysteries stand out because of an unforgettable character like Sherlock Holmes, or a distinct style like that of Chandler or mind-bending plots like that of Agatha Christie. In those areas, this novel was decent, but not impressive--what makes this novel stand out is setting. Published in 1970, the novel is set in the Navajo Reservation in New Mexico and the detective is Joe Leaphorn of the Tribal Police. The novel transported me into what is for me an alien way of thinking, a different spirituality and landscape. I have no way of knowing how accurate Hillerman is, but he certainly gave me the illusion of better knowing the way of the Dineh, their rituals and myths, when I closed the book, and the descriptions of the Southwest desert and wildlife was evocative and striking.
tututhefirst on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
This was a really good mystery story. It takes place on a Navajo reservation. Joe Leaphorn is a Navajo cop who is able to use his knowledge of ancient traditions and culture to bring people out and gather the information he needs to solve the mystery. The real hero of this one (I'm guessing Joe's character will flesh out as the series goes along--after all the series is named after him)is a sort of has-been college professor/anthropologist named Bergen McKee. Even tho I had figured out 'whodunnit' with about 20% of the book left, it didn't spoil my enjoyment of this adventure. Not only was the plot a good one, and the characters well drawn and interesting, the descriptions of Navajo life, poetry, and scenery were an added bonus. I will definitely be reading another in this series
maneekuhi on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Hillerman's # 1 with Navajo Police Lt. Joe Leaphorn. Story begins with death of young Indian man by sand suffocation. Was he killed by a witch ? Before long more bodies turn up and plot evolves into missile testing, Mafia interestsn and there are at least five dead. Story takes place in desert/reservation lands of New Mexico-Arizona-Utah region. I will read other books in this series but doubt that I'll read them all.
bragan on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
A reservation cop looking for a fugitive and an anthropologist doing research on Navajo beliefs about witchcraft find their two investigations converging when the man's body turns up in mysterious circumstances and the locals suspect supernatural foul play. To start off with, this book has a few things going for it. The mysterious murder is sufficiently mysterious. The desert southwest setting is well rendered. And the glimpses it gives of Navajo culture are interesting and nicely handled. (Well, nicely handled in the sense that Hillerman takes the culture on its own terms, rather than exoticisizing or idealizing it for white readers. I don't have enough personal experience to say whether it's completely accurate or not, but I get the impression he knows what he's talking about.) Unfortunately, the story itself failed to grab me. The plot just wasn't all that interesting, and the characters felt very, very generic. Especially the weak, damsel-in-need-of-protection female character. Bleh.I'm not sorry I read it, but I'm not feeling any great need, at this point, to continue with the rest of the series.
red_dianthus on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
I normally never read mysteries, but this author is an exception. I saw one f his books recommended on lj years ago and went and found it and read it. I loved it. The main character is a cop on a big Navajo reservation down in the US. The stories all involve Navajo culture as part of the plot and the descriptions of the landscape make you feel like you are really there. Honestly I enjoyed the first one a bit more than this one because I like the female lead better for the side plot of romance. But I still liked this one and am looking forward to the two other books in the series that I got out of the discard pile at work.
janoorani24 on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
I always enjoy a good Tony Hillerman novel, and I particularly liked this one. It's one of his earlier ones featuring Joe Leaphorn as a younger man and without the Jim Chee character and all of his problems with women. The descriptions of the Navajo culture are very good in this one, and I loved his descriptions of the Southwest.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Excellent writing. Good, clean mystery.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
An excellent, respectfully written book incorporating Dine culture into fiction.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
A few rough edges but a well done tale
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Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Start of a great series. Will miss Tony's wonderful imagination.
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