Skinwalkers (Joe Leaphorn and Jim Chee Series #7)

Skinwalkers (Joe Leaphorn and Jim Chee Series #7)

by Tony Hillerman

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From New York Times bestselling author Tony Hillerman, Skinwalkers is the seventh novel featuring Lieutenant Joe Leaphorn and Officer Jim Chee—a riveting tale of sorcery, secrets, and murder.

Three shotgun blasts rip through the side of Officer Jim Chee’s trailer as the Navajo Tribal Policeman sleeps. He survives, but the inexplicable attack has raised disturbing questions about a lawman once beyond reproach.

Lieutenant Joe Leaphorn wonders why Chee was a target and what connection the assault has to a series of gruesome murders that has been plaguing the reservation. But the investigation is leading them both into a nightmare of ritual, witchcraft, and blood . . . and into the dark and mystical domain of evil beings of Navajo legend, the “skinwalkers.”

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780062018113
Publisher: HarperCollins Publishers
Publication date: 10/25/2011
Series: Joe Leaphorn and Jim Chee Series , #7
Pages: 336
Sales rank: 68,710
Product dimensions: 4.19(w) x 7.50(h) x 0.76(d)

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

When the cat came through the little trapdoor at the bottom of the screen it made a clack-clack sound. Slight, but enough to awaken Jim Chee. Chee had been moving in and out of the very edge of sleep, turning uneasily on the narrow bed, pressing himself uncomfortably against the metal tubes that braced the aluminum skin of his trailer. The sound brought him enough awake to be aware that his sheet was tangled uncomfortably around his chest.

He sorted out the bedclothing, still half immersed in an uneasy dream of being tangled in 'a rope that he needed to keep his mother's sheep from running over the edge of something vague and dangerous. Perhaps the uneasy dream provoked an uneasiness about the cat. What had chased it in? Something scary to a cat -- or to this particular cat. Was it something threatening to Chee? But in a moment he was fully awake, and the uneasiness was replaced by happiness. Mary Landon would be coming. Blue-eyed, slender, fascinating Mary Landon would be coming back from Wisconsin. Just a couple of weeks more to wait.

Jim Chee's conditioning -- traditional Navajo -- caused him to put that thought aside. All things in moderation. He would think more about that later. Now he thought about tomorrow. Today, actually, since it must be well after midnight. Today he and Jay Kennedy would go out and arrest Roosevelt Bistie so that Bistie could be charged with some degree of homicide -- probably with murder. Not a complicated job, but unpleasant enough to cause Chee to change the subject of his thinking again. He thought about the cat. What had driven it in? The coyote, maybe. Orwhat? Obviously something the cat considered a threat.

The cat had appeared last winter, finding itself a sort of den under a juniper east of Chee's trailer -- a place where a lower limb, a boulder, and a rusted barrel formed a closed cul-de-sac. It had become a familiar, if suspicious, neighbor. During the spring, Chee had formed a habit of leaving out table scraps to feed it after heavy snows. Then when the snow melt ended and the spring drought arrived, he began leaving out water in a coffee can. But easy water attracted other animals, and birds, and sometimes they turned it over. And so, one afternoon when there was absolutely nothing else to do, Chee had removed the door, hacksawed out a cat-sized rectangle through its bottom frame, and then attached a plywood flap, using leather hinges and Miracle Glue. He had done it on a whim, partly to see if the ultracautious cat could be taught to use it. If the cat did, it would gain access to a colony of field mice that seemed to have moved into Chee's trailer. And the watering problem would be solved. Chee felt slightly uneasy about the water. If he hadn't started this meddling, nature would have taken its normal course. The cat would have moved down the slope and found itself a den closer to the San Juan -- which was never dry. But Chee had interfered. And now Chee was stuck with a dependent.

Chee's interest, originally, had been simple curiosity. Once, obviously, the cat had been owned by someone. It was skinny now, with a long scar over its ribs and a patch of fur missing from its right leg, but it still wore a collar, and, despite its condition, it had a purebred look. He'd described it to the woman in the pet store at Farmington -- tan fur, heavy hind legs, round head, pointed ears; reminded you of a bobcat, and like a bobcat it had a mere stub of a tail. The woman had said it must be a Manx.

"Somebody's pet. People are always bringing their pets along on vacations," she'd said, disapproving, "and then they don't take care of them and they get out of the car and that's the end of them." She'd asked Chee if he could catch it and bring it in, "so somebody can take care of it."

Chee doubted if he could get his hands on the cat, and hadn't tried. He was too much the traditional Navajo to interfere with an animal without a reason. But he was curious. Could such an animal, an animal bred and raised by the white man, call up enough of its hunting instincts to survive in the Navajo world? The curiosity gradually turned to a casual admiration. By early summer, the animal had accumulated wisdom with its scar tissue. It stopped trying to hunt prairie dogs and concentrated on small rodents and birds. It learned how to hide, how to escape. It learned how to endure.

It also learned to follow the water can into Chee's trailer rather than make the long climb down to the river. Within a week the cat was using the flap when Chee was away. By midsummer it began coming in when he was at home. At first it had waitedtensely at the step until he was away from the door, kept a- nervous eye on him while it drank, and bolted through the flap at his first motion. But now, in August, the cat virtually ignored him. It had come inside at nightonly once before-driven in by a pack of dogs that had flushed it out of its den under the juniper.

Chee looked around the trailer. Far too dark to see where the cat had gone. He pushed the sheet aside, swung his feet to the floor. Through the screened window beside his bed he noticed the moon was down. Except far to the northwest, where the remains of a thunderhead lingered, the sky was bright with stars. Chee yawned, stretched, went to the sink, and drank a palmful of water warm from the tap. The air smelled of dust, as it had for weeks...

Skinwalkers. Copyright © by Tony Hillerman. Reprinted by permission of HarperCollins Publishers, Inc. All rights reserved. Available now wherever books are sold.

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Skinwalkers (Joe Leaphorn and Jim Chee Series #7) 4.3 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 19 reviews.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I've recently begun working my way through Tony Hillerman's mysteries set in the Southwest. What I like best about them are the Navajo characters, Officer Jim Chee and Lt. Joe Leaphorn, drawn with real affection and insight. Most of the action takes place in their heads as they put together the pieces of various crime investigations, using their intimate knowledge of tribal life to illuminate clues that would go unnoticed by outsiders. If you've visited the areas of New Mexico and Arizona where the Navajo Reservation bumps up against white America, you'll enjoy being let in on that world in more detail. The bleakly beautiful landscapes as well as the way of life of Navajos and Hopis color these tales and make them unforgettable. Although Leaphorn and Chee were each the protagonists of earlier Hillerman books, "Skinwalkers" is the first that pairs them up, and they're a classic duo. Faced with solving three Reservation homicides, many miles apart, that at first appear unconnected but slowly begin to reveal aspects of witchcraft, the two lawmen learn to respect each other's process. As events accelerate and revelations come quickly upon one another, the nailbiter of a climax will keep you on pins and needles.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I love the Leaphorn/Chee stoies, and this one is another winner.
Guest More than 1 year ago
The Suspense starts off in the very first Chapter. A Triangle of Homicides are being investigated by Lt. Leaphorn in Navajoland. Officer Chee joins him after avoiding being murdered himself. Is a Skinwalker (witch) the connection to this Bloodbath? They say theres nothing to fear but fear itself, that why id be scared to be in this Suspenseful and 7/8ths Mystery. Read this Book!!!!! Also see it on PBS Mystery.
Anonymous 8 days ago
It is a dangerous expectation, that being a bonafide education about a people and/or place from a work of fiction written entirely for entertainment. Expectation met.
tjsjohanna on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
This is the first mystery where Joe Leaphorn and Jim Chee work together. There is also a significant bit of personal side story going on for both Chee and Leephorn. The mystery kept me guessing (even though I had read it previously) although it is foreshadowed if you know what to look for. Nicely done.
louisu on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
I often don't read mysteries but since i saw bits of this one on PBS American Mystery Theater the other day while flipping channels i was interested in the characters. I usually like writers who write about Native American culture and their current predicament. In this case i am not sure that Tony Hillerman is the expert of contemporary Native American culture, but he does a good job of writing about people and their daily interactions. He has an interesting way of naming people by a physical attribute or articles of clothing that describe the person. A character is introduced wearing a silk shirt and till you actually get her name she is referred to as Silk Shirt.The story is interesting because it deals with two officers on a large reservation who have very different ideas about modern medicine and traditional Navajo medicine. Jim Chee is actually studying to be a medicine man in his tribe and Leaphorn has a strong sense of disbelief of tribal medicine. The book starts quickly when Jim Chee is attacked in his home while he was sleeping. From there we find that there have been a series of murders that Leaphorn thinks may be connected. As the story progresses we find that the beliefs that Jim Chee may in fact help him investigate the case while Leaphorn is able to peice together bits of information from scattered conversations and little bis of data.It is actually interesting to see how they have small conversation throughout the book taking every bit of information and processing it as well. It is kind of neat that Jim Chee has to understand and learn howLeaphorn investigates his cases. The book was a good quick read that I really enjoyed. I liked how they were able to blend in multiple pieces of medicine both traditional and modern medicine into the stories. Solid mystery and i think I may have to start tracking down these book on my little jaunts and movements through Chicago bookstores.
markatread on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
After writing three books that featured Joe Leaphorn and then three that featured Jim Chee, Tony Hillerman, the author, brought them together in the Skinwalkers for the first time. Joe Leaphorn is a pragmatist who believes in solving mysteries by gathering all the facts and then letting the facts solve the case. Jim Chee is younger and is much more spiritual, believing in the old Navajo ways, even to the point of beginning the process of becoming a singer/healer. The book begins with someone trying to kill Chee by shooting a shotgun 3 times at him through his trailer as he sleeps. There are also 3 unsolved murders that have occurred on the reservation and they all appear to have been related to the belief that skinwalkers, or witches, have been responsible. Leaphorn not only does not believe in witches, the belief by his people in skinwalkers makes him angry. Chee on the other hand is much less certain that they do not exsist, in fact, he may believe in them. It is this uneasy alliance between Leaphorn and Chee that drives the book. Both Leaphorn and Chee contribute directly to the solving of the mystery, but they get there by different means.The series takes place in New Mexico and one of the "characters" that comes to play a part in almost every book is the vastness of the reservation itself. The murders in this case take place 120 miles apart. Trying to solve a mystery involving 3 murders and one attempted murder that occurs over such a vast area of land is just as much a part of the book as a mystery that takes place in claustrophobic New York City. If murders take place 120 miles apart in New York City there will be frantic driving, helicopters flying, and detectives racing all over the place against some clock that is almost always ticking to get somewhere in a hurry. But in this series, there is a much slower pace, even when there is action. As a result, character development becomes much more important and there is plenty of room and time for each of the 2 main charaters to grow. In this book, Leaphorn is facing the possible loss of his wife Emma to Alzheimers disease while Chee is letting go of his love interest Mary Langdon from the first 3 books and possibly finding a new love interest in this book. But the slow nature of the book that matches the vastness of the reservation is best seen by the small, but very important things that have time to take place in the telling of the story. In this book both happen to Chee. The first is a stray cat that by the end of the book becomes a metaphor for his relationshiop with Mary Langdon. This one is very well done and while it has nothing to do with the mystery, is very important to the overall effectiveness of the book. The second small item, which also becomes very important to the solving of the mystery, involves Chee wanting to become a singer and be a part of the spiritual nature that is both the history and the fabric that holds his people together.
nmaloney on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
I really enjoyed this mystery novel. Though I have heard of Tony Hillerman, this is the first time I picked on of his books. Very good characterization, loved Jim Chee and Joe Leaphore, the protagonists. For light reading, I would highly recommend this book
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Guest More than 1 year ago
skinwalkers is the perfect novel from a realativly unknown writer.Tony Hilerman is a great mystery writer that not really all that famous.He is now my favorite writer I've ever read.I realy suggest that you read this book .It is very entertaining for a serious reader or just right for a beginer reader like me.