A THIEF OF TIME by Tony Hillerman


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Hillerman's two Navajo Tribal Police heroes--middle-aged Lieut. Joe Leaphorn, young Officer Jim Chee--again share the sleuthing, more or less by accident, in another richly somber blend of mystery, socio-theology, psychology, and (this time) anthropology. Leaphorn, traumatized by his wife's recent death, is on leave and plans to quit the force--but he finds himself caught up nonetheless in a local puzzle: what happened to anthropologist Eleanor Friedman-Bernal, who was collecting and studying ancient (ca. 600-1200 A.D.) ceramic pottery of the vanished Anasazi civilization? She's been missing for a month, was on the verge of some breakthrough, and was last seen setting off for an undisclosed wilderness location. Meanwhile, Chee (still brooding on the departure of girlfriend Mary) investigates the theft of a backhoe--and discovers the corpses of two men, shot to death while in the act of digging up (in an illegal area) the very same sort of artifacts that Friedman-Bernal was obsessed with. Are the cases connected? Of course. So Leaphom (out of curiosity) and Chee (out of grudging respect for Leaphorn) are soon working in tandem. They talk to other anthropologists working in the region. They trace the route by which pots have been illegally dug up, passed to a middleman (a local Born-Again revivalist), and then sold--either to the anthropologist or a New York dealer. Suspicion falls on a former Utah State Senator and rancher--until the old rascal turns up dead himself. And finally each sleuth independently arrives at the solution--which involves an anthropological discovery, a 20-year-old secret, and a harrowing, cliffside confrontation/finale (complete with critical injuries and two helicopters). Slightly less absorbing than the best Hillermans, but darkly atmospheric and ultimately powerful--with (as usual) effective contrasts among the theological beliefs of rationalist Leaphorn, mystical Chee, and other Navajos.
Pub Date: July 1st, 1988
ISBN: 0061808407
Page count: 354pp
Publisher: Harper & Row
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 15th, 1988


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