Monday, June 2, 2014

Skinwalkers by Tony Hillerman, A Review

What is a skinwalker?

In some Native American legends, a skinwalker is a person with the supernatural ability to turn into any animal he or she desires. Most often seen as coyote, wolf, fox, eagle, owl or crow, the skinwalker is said to base the form chosen on the specific abilities needed.









SKINWALKERS

Officer Jim Chee's trailer is shot three times, but misses Jim. Who is trying to kill him? Everyone, including Jim, is at a loss to explain who would want him dead. The stray cat he allowed to live under the juniper bush had warned him minutes before the shots rang out.

Three recent murders with confusing clues sit in the top file on Leaphorn's desk. Are they related? No one wants to answer questions, yet they want to discuss the connections between the dead and the living. Lieutenant Leaphorn tells Jim to start questioning the locals for leads that might turn up. Bone beads were found in two places, insidious clues pointing to witchery.

Lured to a remote area of the Navajo land, Officer Jim Chee is alone when he begins to see the connection between some of the elements of the murder. His understanding improves after being nailed by the same shotgun. . .


A NY Times Bestseller, Skinwalkers has been reprinted several times, the last reprint in 2011. Hillerman also wrote Shapeshifters. I recommend both titles if you like suspense. These are modern stories of the southwest with an element of the past.

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Have you read any of Tony Hillerman's work? Are you familiar with Navajo or southwestern legends?

Please leave a comment to let me know you were here, and thanks for dropping by! I'll respond.

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References - Skinwalking:

Skinwalkers can be called shapeshifters, another term that describes the ability to assume other forms, generally for dark purposes.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Skin-walker Skin-walker wiki

http://www.navajolegends.org/navajo-skinwalker-legend/ Skinwalkers

35 comments:

  1. I am fascinated by Native American and First Nations history and legends, although I confess my interest is in the plains tribes and those of the Pacific Northwest. I have never heard the expression 'skin walkers'.....only 'shape shifters'.

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    1. Neither had I, and I don't know enough about the Pacific Northwest natives to determine if they have something similar. This book was interesting because of the lore Hillerman included.

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  2. Being of the supernatural bent of mind, I knew about skinwalkers -- they needed to wear mystic pelts made of the fur of the animal they were to change into. Shifters as JoJo mentioned could just shift without wearing those pelt belts.

    A truly vicious portrayal of a naagloshi, a skinwalker, is found in TURN COAT by Jim Butcher.

    I was drawn to Tony Hillerman years ago by his titles, but I was younger then (of course) and felt tricked when his mysteries were not supernatural. I remember them being good mysteries though. Now, you've gotten me interested in re-visiting them.

    Have you tried any of the Walt Longmire's mysteries (a sheriff in a rural county of Wyoming). I've gotten interested in the TV series. :-)

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    1. I first picked up a Hillerman book because the story was about a blanket connected to the Trail of Tears (Shapeshifter). So of course I wanted more. I have checked out the Butcher books at the library and may pick up one since you mentioned a title. And I haven't heard of Longmire, will have to check out his work. I find some of these stories about the west much more interesting when they contain the unexplained and traditions that hark back to mysticism. . . I like the way Hillerman writes, and I like his characters. Glad you could stop by, Roland.

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    2. I drove 400 miles and worked 11 hours straight yesterday, so I have slept in most of today! You are always on my visit list. :-)

      DEATH MASKS would be a good place to start Harry's adventures. You can read the first 4 chapters of the book here:

      http://www.jim-butcher.com/books/dresden/death-masks

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    3. Thanks, I'll check that link. Funny, I like masks in general, but death masks I know can have other meanings. . .

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  3. I read almost all of Hillerman's novels and this one was a favorite if I remember correctly. I loved learning about the Navajo culture and legends and the landscape he wrote about is fascinating to me.

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    1. He's written quite a few books, Julie, so that's an accomplishment. I will likely read more. I enjoy learning about legends and beliefs. Native culture is interesting to me.

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  4. I like Native American themed novels. I will check these out. Thanks!

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    1. I enjoy his writing, Robin. He weaves some of the mythology of the Navajo into his stories. I like his main characters too.

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  5. Hi D.G. No, I haven't read a Hillerman novel, but i love reading about other cultures, so I must rectify.
    Thanks, D.G, for putting the WEP badge up in a prominent place. I hope we get more takers for June...

    Have a great week.

    Denise

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    1. I hope we get a few more WEP entries this time, too, but I'm planning on being there. I'm working on mine bit by bit.

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  6. I read many of his books years ago, then I stopped. I guess there are just so many good books out there that some you don't pick up and read. I remember liking the settings of Hillerman's books a lot.

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    1. I discovered Hillerman while browsing through the mystery section of the library. I know very little about that area of the US, and I find the settings and the customs interesting, Inger.

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  7. June 5th, 2014
    Oooooh. I like the idea of shapeshifters. The first time I ran across this term was when reading the Harry Potter-books or seeing the films. Wizards and witches who can change themselves into animals are called shapeshifters there.
    I'll put Hillerman's books on my reading list.
    Thanks for sharing,
    Anna

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    1. I'm attracted to stories like this too, and Hillerman includes the legends of various beliefs and objects. I like learning about the tribes of the southwestern US.

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  8. I've heard about Hillerman for many years now, but I've yet to read anything by him. Actually I wouldn't be surprised if I had one of his books around here somewhere. I'm interested in native American lore. I used to read a lot about it.

    This sounds like an engrossing story.

    Lee
    Tossing It Out

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    1. I like Hillerman's characters, and his easygoing way of telling the story. He has lots to choose from. You should give him a try, Lee.

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  9. I like shapeshifter stories -- I've been mulling over a potential shapeshifting Navajo code talker story for a while...

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    1. Go for it, Milo. I like those stories too. In college I did research on parts of the southwest area in order to do a painting.

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  10. I've neither heard of Tony Hillerman nor skinwalkers, but I like the idea of this. I'm a sucker for Native American folklore. I'll definitely have to check this out.

    Also, regarding your question on the blog today, it's open to anyone regardless of location, so do feel free to enter!

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  11. He's an interesting writer, and I like the inclusion of Native lore. Shapeshifters, was the first one I read. I like the characters.
    I have one entry, so far, in your contest. Thanks for being international, guys!

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  12. I've read Hillerman but not in many years - The Talking God, I think it was. Good stuff.

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    2. I'll try that again. I haven't read that one, will check it out.

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  13. What an exceptionally scary, cringe-inducing title and concept. This one sounds like a big hit.

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    1. Yes, I know. Shapeshifters are scary. . .it's the unknown factor (how evil is it)

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  14. What an interesting premise and concept ~ I haven't read something like this before, just shape shifters ~ Thanks for the recommendation and will check it out ~

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    1. It think it's very interesting, History is our past.

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  15. very interesting information, and i like the term skinwalkers!

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    1. Both skinwalkers and shapeshifters are things we can't trust, though. A disguise or mask is a warning. . .

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  16. One of my favorite mystery writers. " A Thief of Time" I just looked up his bio on Wikipedia--Wow! But his writing puts you in those places, dry, dusty, mysterious and you learn so much about the Navajo culture.

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    1. Yes, he's written a lot. I like him too, and discovered him at the library by chance.

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  17. Hey, D.G.

    How are you? Really like this term and the premise of these books sound intriguing. I'm not familiar with Hillerman, but his books sound like a good read.

    Hope all is well...

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    1. Hillerman appeals to me if I'm in the mood for some southwestern stories. The last couple of days I've been working on two new posts - due tomorrow. One's about cherchez la femme and a French story.

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