Dance Hall of the Dead  - Tony Hillerman

My public library book discussion group picked this as part of a series on Native American mysteries.  I had read it 25 years ago but didn't really remember much about it.  I'm so glad I had a reason to re-read it! Yay for public libraries!

Joe Leaphorn is a Navajo Tribal Policeman and is called in to help find a young Navajo boy, George Bowlegs, when George's best friend, a young Zuni boy, is killed.  Having both a Zuni and a Navajo involved in a case presents all sorts of jurisdictional issues for Leaphorn, not to mention that the FBI are there also. The contrast between the white culture,the Navajo culture and the Zuni culture, even in law enforcement, are clearly drawn from the very beginning of the book.

Set in the New Mexico/Arizona area, this book is one of the most atmospheric mysteries I've read in a long time. The land itself acts as a character.  This is a story that couldn't be set in any other place than where it is set.  You will be drawn into the beautiful American Southwest.  Don't be surprised if you find yourself wanting to head out on a roadtrip!

The mystery itself is well-done and we're given clues through the story but I still didn't figure it out until the end. The cultures of the Zuni and the Navajo are dealt with knowledgeably and respectfully.  A highly recommended book and not just for mystery lovers.  Anyone with any interest in Native American cultures or the desert Southwest is going to love this.

 

The Edgar Award Winner for 1974