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Summary and book reviews of The First Eagle by Tony Hillerman

The First Eagle

by Tony Hillerman

The First Eagle
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  • First Published:
    Jan 1999, 360 pages
    Paperback:
    Jul 1999, 319 pages

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Book Summary

Offers a wealth of Tony Hillerman's signature gifts - glorious evocations of the high desert, delicately drawn characters, and eloquent insights into the foibles and wisdom of the Southwest's native people.

The very plague that decimated Europe in the fourteenth century lurks today in the high, dry land of the American Southwest. But Navajo Tribal policeman Jim Chee and his mentor, Joe Leaphorn, discover an even deadlier killer stalking the reservation in the most chilling and beautifully crafted novel yet from the beloved and bestselling master of Southwestern suspense.

When Acting Lt. Chee catches a Hopi eagle poacher literally red-handed--huddled over the bloody body of a young Navajo Tribal police officer--he has an open-and-shut case. Even the Feds--usually at odds with Chee'agree, and it seems the Hopi is headed for the gas chamber. Until Joe Leaphorn shows up to blow Chee's case wide open.

Leaphorn, now retired form the Navajo Tribal Police, has been hired to find Cathy Pollard, a hot-headed biologist who disappeared from the same remote area on the same day the Navajo cop was murdered. Is she a suspect? A victim? And what are Chee and Leaphorn to make of the report that a skinwalker--a Navajo witch--was seen in the same area at the same time?

To answer these questions, Leaphorn and Chee must immerse themselves in the enigmatic web of scientists hunting the key to the most virulent form of bubonic plague since the Middle Ages.

In addition to its finely wrought plot, The First Eagle offers a wealth of Tony Hillerman's signature gifts--glorious evocations of the high desert, delicately drawn characters, and eloquent insights into the foibles and wisdom of the Southwest's native people.

Excerpt
The First Eagle

The body of Anderson Nez lay under a sheet on the gurney, waiting.


From the viewpoint of Shirley Ahkeah, sitting at her desk in the Intensive Care Unit nursing station of the Northern Arizona Medical Center in Flagstaff, the white shape formed by the corpse of Mr. Nez reminded her of Sleeping Ute Mountain as seen from her aunt's hogan near Teec Nos Pos.

Nez's feet, only a couple of yards from her eyes, pushed the sheet up to form the mountain's peak. Perspective caused the rest of the sheet to slope away in humps and ridges, as the mountain seemed to do under its winter snow when she was a child. Shirley had given up on finishing her night shift paperwork. Her mind kept drifting away to what had happened to Mr. Nez and trying to calculate whether he fit into the Bitter Water clan Nez family with the grazing lease adjoining her grandmother's place at Short Mountain. And then there was the question of whether his family would allow an autopsy. She ...

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Reviews

Media Reviews
The Wall Street Journal

Mr. Hillerman skillfully blends Navaho lore with daily life.... Although the story is neatly told, the plot-line about a drug-resistant plague is slowed by Mr. Hillerman's fascination with scientific mumbo-jumbo.

The Washington Post

The First Eagle displays all the strengths of Hillerman's writing a vivid sense of place, nuanced characters, and a complex, engrossing plot.

Reader Reviews
Eagle Boy Zephier

Mystery Analysis
It is a good book to read.

Anonymous
Lonna Schmidt
Again, Tony Hillerman has written an intriguing novel about the Navaho people and those wonderful police officers Jim Chee and Joe Leaphorn. Though one of his shorter novels, the plot quickly takes shape and you are left guessing "...   Read More

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