Book Review: Dance Hall of the Dead

Author: Tony Hillerman

Publisher: Harper & Row

Copyright date: 1973

Pages: 166

Genre: Mystery

Format: Audiobook

Reason for Reading: I love everything this author has written

Rating: A

Award Won: Edgar Allan Poe Award for Best Novel, 1974

Summary (from the publisher):

A Zuni Indian boy dies in a bizarre ritual slaying – and his best friend, a Navajo youth, is missing. Navajo police lieutenant Joe Leaphorn tracks the friend from Zuni village to Navajo hogan, from anthropological dig to hippie commune, across the desert of New Mexico and Arizona. In his search, Leaphorn discovers the ancient secrets of the Zunis and the hidden crimes of white men.

My thoughts:

It’s impossible to read a Tony Hillerman book without feeling two things: a tremendous respect for the culture and customs of the Navajo people, and amazement for the survival skills that keep the Native-Americans alive and thriving in the Four Corners area of the U.S. The background information is an interesting part of the story along with the plot and the characters.

The protagonist, Joe Leaphorn, is a unique character. He’s usually left out of the usual police channels, particularly when the FBI is involved. There isn’t a lot of respect for the Native American police departments. But Joe Leaphorn doesn’t need them. He uses his knowledge about the religious customs and other practices of the Navajo to lead him through the mystery. I especially liked his thought processes and his common sense. And then there is his tracking skills. Let me just say he is really good.

In Dance Hall of the Dead you get a multi-twisting plot, a good look at the Native American culture, and a mystery that baffles until the end.

The audiobook was narrated by George Guidall. In my opinion, he did an excellent job. He sounded just like I thought Joe Leaphorn would sound. He did a good job of pronouncing all the difficult Native American words. I’ve read nearly all of Hillerman’s books but this was the first time I listened to one. I’d recommend you give an audiobook of Tony Hillerman’s a try.

About the author:

Tony Hillerman (1925 to 2008) was a novelist, a journalist and a professor. He worked for sixteen years as a journalist before returning to college for a masters degree in English. He stayed on at the University of New Mexico after earning his degree and taught journalism for twenty-two years. It was during this time that he began writing novels. He wrote over thirty books, both fiction and nonfiction. Dance Hall of the Dead was his second book. [Photo credit: Wikipedia]

About the Edgar Award:

The Edgar Allan Poe Awards are awarded annually by the Mystery Writers of America (MWA) to authors of distinguished work in various categories of the genre. (The Edgar® is a registered trademark of the MWA.) The awards have been presented since 1946.

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About Margot

I'm also known as Joyfully Retired. I love to talk. I love to talk about books I've read, movies I've seen, places I've traveled to, people (especially my children and grandchildren), and Food. On the Quirky Girls Read blog I'm trying to read all the books that have won the major awards and then, of course, talk about them.
This entry was posted in Award Winners, Fiction, Mystery, Posts by Margot. Bookmark the permalink.

8 Responses to Book Review: Dance Hall of the Dead

  1. BermudaOnion says:

    I’d be interested in reading these books simply because it sounds like he respects the culture of the Native Americans. Great review, Margot!

  2. I’ve only read one Tony Hillerman and really liked it, so I really don’t know why I never got more. Thanks for reminding me of his books!

  3. kaye says:

    I agree with your thoughts, I’ve always enjoyed Tony Hillerman.

  4. My mother met Tony Hillerman at some writer’s conference or another, and really liked him, and I’ve read a couple of his books and liked them. I’ll have to see if I can track down something in audiobook. Great review!

  5. TheBookGirl says:

    My mom loves to read both fiction and non-fiction books about Native American culture; I am going to recommend this series to her, thanks!

  6. Staci says:

    Now I could actually see myself listening to this on audio! Love this author!

  7. stacybuckeye says:

    I read one Leaphorn book years ago and really liked it. I am desparate for short book for the States challenge. Is this one on Arizona or New Mexico?

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