Summary and book reviews of Skeleton Man by Tony Hillerman

Skeleton Man

By Tony Hillerman

Skeleton Man
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  • Hardcover: Nov 2004,
    241 pages.
    Paperback: Jan 2006,
    368 pages.

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Book Summary

Hailed as "a wonderful storyteller" by the New York Times, and a "national and literary cultural sensation" by the Los Angeles Times, bestselling author Tony Hillerman is back with another blockbuster novel featuring the legendary Lieutenant Joe Leaphorn and Sergeant Jim Chee.

Former Navajo Tribal Police Lieutenant Joe Leaphorn comes out of retirement to help investigate what seems to be a trading post robbery. A simple-minded kid nailed for the crime is the cousin of an old colleague of Sergeant Jim Chee. He needs help and Chee, and his fiancée Bernie Manuelito, decide to provide it.

Proving the kid's innocence requires finding the remains of one of 172 people whose bodies were scattered among the cliffs of the Grand Canyon in an epic airline disaster 50 years in the past. That passenger had handcuffed to his wrist an attaché case filled with a fortune in diamonds -- one of which seems to have turned up in the robbery.

But with Hillerman, it can't be that simple. The daughter of the long-dead diamond dealer is also seeking his body. So is a most unpleasant fellow willing to kill to make sure she doesn't succeed. These two tense tales collide deep in the canyon at the place where an old man died trying to build a cult reviving reverence for the Hopi guardian of the Underworld. It's a race to the finish in a thunderous monsoon storm to see who will survive, who will be brought to justice, and who will finally unearth the Skeleton Man.

Chapter One

Lieutenant Joe Leaphorn, retired, had been explaining how the complicated happening below the Salt Woman Shrine illustrated his Navajo belief in universal connections. The cause leads to inevitable effect. The entire cosmos being an infinitely complicated machine all working together. His companions, taking their mid-morning coffee break at the Navajo Inn, didn't interrupt him. But they didn't seem impressed.

"I'll admit the half-century gap between the day all those people were killed here and Billy Tuve trying to pawn that diamond for twenty dollars is a problem," Leaphorn said. "But when you really think about it, trace it all back, you see how one thing kept leading to another. The chain's there."

Captain Pinto, who now occupied Joe Leaphorn's preretirement office in the Navajo Tribal Police Headquarters, put down his cup. He signaled a refill to the waitress who was listening to this conversation, and waited a polite moment for Leaphorn ...

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Reviews

BookBrowse

If you're looking for a thrilling, page turning, heart pounding adventure - move on; but if you're in the market for a thoughtful mystery set in a stunning location look no further. I think I would have enjoyed Skeleton Man wherever and however I'd read it, but it's quite possible that I particularly enjoyed it because I listened to most of it on a long solo car journey with absolutely no distractions, so I could take in every mellow, gravelly word read by George Guidall.   (Reviewed by BookBrowse Review Team).

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Media Reviews
Publishers Weekly

Starred Review. The stakes are high and the danger escalates clear through to the final pages. Hillerman continues to shine as the best of the West.

Booklist - Connie Fletcher

Starred Review. Hillerman manages to craft both a rip-roaring adventure tale, partially set in the treacherous downward slopes of the Grand Canyon, and a character-driven mystery in which Leaphorn's melancholy over retirement and Bernie Manuelito's uncertainty over her engagement to Sergeant Chee are both believable and involving. Another Hillerman stunner.

Kirkus Reviews

Adventures ensue. No mystery this time, but considerable suspense in the race to bottom of one of the most spectacular and treacherous landscapes Hillerman's ever explored.

Santa Fe New Mexican

One of his strongest and most specific plots...amusingly wry dialogue...keenly observed detail.

People

A fascinating whodunit and a window into a rich culture....a gem.

The New York Times - Marilyn Stasio

In his masterly reworking of this powerful myth, Hillerman creates a kachina for contemporary times -- a hermit who lives in a cave at the bottom of the Grand Canyon and dispenses diamonds (''the symbol of greed,'' according to one wary recipient) that can corrupt anyone who mistakes their cold glitter for true light.

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Beyond the Book

Hillerman is a prolific writer, not just of fiction, but also non-fiction (usually on Indian Country issues), and has also edited four anthologies.

Navajo mystery series order: The Blessing Way, in 1970, Dance Hall of the Dead (1973), Listening Woman (1978), People of Darkness (1980), The Dark Wind (1982), The Ghostway (1984). Skinwalkers (1986), A Thief of Time (1988), Talking God (1989), Coyote Waits (1990), Sacred Clowns (1993), The Fallen Man (1996), The First Eagle (1998), Hunting Badger (1999), The Wailing Wind (2002), The Sinister Pig (2003), Skeleton Man (2004)
Coming Soon The Shape Shifter (to be published June 2006).

...

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