Murder Is Our Peculiar Pastime: Fifty Notable American Crime Novels: 27-28


Hillerman, Tony.  Skinwalkers.  New York: Harper, 1986.

The impact of Tony Hillerman’s novels featuring Navajo policemen Jim Chee and Joe Leaphorn has had few precedents in the history of the mystery-detective genre.  Although Chee and Leaphorn were not the first fictional Native American detectives, no previous novel or series featuring Native Americans resonated so deeply with individual readers and across the broader culture. Hillerman’s series has created a readership for several dozen subsequent series and hundreds of individual novels featuring Native American characters and themes, most but not all of which have had Western settings.  In a broader sense, the series has exponentially expanded the market for mysteries featuring “ethnic” detectives and regional settings.

Although Hillerman was not a Native American, he received relatively little criticism questioning the credibility of his characterizations of Native Americans or his representations of Native American history, customs, and daily life.  He spent his…

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