Wednesday, June 8, 2016

REVIEW: The Blessing Way

The Blessing Way
Author: Tony Hillerman

Bergen McKee is an anthropologist studying the Navajo culture, especially the role that witches play in tribal beliefs. The college professor comes to the reservation in New Mexico to spend the summer in the desert, researching rumors of Wolf-Witches active in the area. Lt Joe Leaphorn with the tribal police has been friends with McKee since their college days, and is glad to see his old friend. But, neither man expects that the witch rumors will soon blossom into a string of murders. The men work together to discover who the Wolf-Witch is, gathering information on sightings of the witch and possible suspects. The investigation culminates in an exciting show-down in the desert, where McKee's life is on the line.

The Blessing Way was Tony Hillerman's first novel, published in 1970.  I first read this book when I was in high school. I became an immediate fan of Hillerman's novels. The Blessing Way is the first book in the Joe Leaphorn Mysteries series, although in this first book Bergen McKee is more the main character than Leaphorn.  I love the way the story is a blend of Navajo culture and murder mystery.

I decided this year to re-visit Hillerman's novels. I'm glad I did. His portrayal of the Navajo way of life was just as vivid for me now as it was for me in the 80's when I read this book for the first time. Hillerman wrote 22 books. 18 of them are Joe Leaphorn/Jim Chee Navajo police mystery novels.
Hillerman died in 2008, but his daughter Anne continues the series. Anne Hillerman has written two novels in the series so far, Spider Woman's Daughter and Rock With Wings.

The Blessing Way starts out a little slow, but by mid-book the action picks up speed and heads towards a thrilling end. The book includes a lot of details about Navajo culture, beliefs and ceremonies. It's easy to tell that Hillerman loved New Mexico! Here's a short video of Hillerman talking about New Mexico, the Navajo and his writing:

I'm going to re-read the entire series.

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