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The Dark Wind ()

The great pleasure of Tony Hillerman's series of police procedurals--featuring Sgt. Jim Chee and/or Lt. Joe Leaphorn of the Navajo Tribal Police--lies not in details of procedure, nor cleverness of the puzzle to be solved, nor in particularly interesting characters.  Many other series do these things better.  What Hillerman really excels at is bringing alive a region of the country, the Four Corners in the Southwest, and an unfamiliar social milieu, the American Indian reservation.  His writing evokes the rugged beauty and utter desolation of desert and mesa, and his descriptions of Navajo (and, in this novel, Hopi) religious beliefs and tribal customs portray a truly fascinating culture.

In Dark Wind, Chee must try to solve several cases : the fatal crash of a drug-running airplane; a jewel robbery; and the repeated sabotaging of a local windmill.  They turn out, predictably, to be interrelated, and the conclusion is fairly pro forma.  But then there's the almost incidental insight into Chee's way of thinking, when he's talking to the sister of the pilot who died in the crash :

    'Do you understand "An eye for an eye, a tooth for a tooth"?'

    'I've heard it,' Chee said.

    'Don't you believe in justice? Don't you believe that things need to be evened up?'

    Chee shrugged.  'Why not?' he said.  As a matter of fact, the concept seemed as strange to him as the
    idea that someone with money would steal had seemed to Mrs. Musket.  Someone who violated
    basic laws of behavior and harmed you was, by Navajo definition, 'out of control.'  The 'dark wind'
    had entered him and destroyed his judgment.  One avoided such persons, and worried about them,
    and was pleased if they were cured of the temporary insanity and returned again to hozro.  But to
    Chee's Navajo mind, the idea of punishing them would be as insane as the original act.  He
    understood it was a common attitude in the white culture, but he'd never before encountered it so

Now Hillerman may or may not have this stuff right, who knows.  And I may think that many of the beliefs explored are so much hogwash.  But somehow, the books give you the feeling that you're fulfilling that annoying old college requirement of "Knowledge of a Culture Other Than Your Own" in the most enjoyable way imaginable.


Grade: (B)


See also:

Book-related and General Links:
    -ESSAY : Portraits of the West from five of its finest authors : Ship Rock (Tony Hillerman, November 1998, Sunset Magazine)
    -EXCERPT :  First Chapter of The First Eagle
    -BOOK SITE : The Best American Mystery Stories  of the Century Edited by Tony Hillerman (FSB Associates)
    -INTERVIEW : An Online Q&A With Tony Hillerman (PBS)
    -INTERVIEW : Talking With Tony Hillerman (Mystery Guild)
    -INTERVIEW : Sitting down and setting out with Tony Hillerman (ROSEMARY ZIBART, Book Page)
    -PROFILE : No mystery to Tony Hillerman's success as a best-selling author (Bob Hoover, October 31, 1998, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette)
    -The Times and The Irish Times : 100 Masters of Crime : Tony Hillerman (Clare Library)
    -A Tony Hillerman Navajo Glossary  (Gwyneth and Jack Vaughn)
    -Tony Hillerman (Stop You're Killing Me)
    -Tony Hillerman (Bastulli Mystery Library)
    -Hillerman country! (The Unofficial Tony Hillerman Homepage)
    -Hillerman Country (Mystery Net)
    -ESSAY : Sense of Place ( WILLIAM LANGEWIESCHE, Atlantic Monthly)
    -ARCHIVES : hillerman (Salon)
    -ARCHIVES : "tony hillerman" (Find Articles)
    -REVIEW : of Finding Moon (1995) (David Walton, Detroit News)
    -REVIEW : of The Fallen Man (1996) (Marilyn Stasio, NY Times Book Review)
    -REVIEW : of The First Eagle (1998)  (Marilyn Stasio, NY Times Book Review)
    -REVIEW : of The First Eagle, by Tony Hillerman (Tom Danehy, Tucson Weekly)
    -REVIEW : of The First Eagle (Suzette Lalime Davidson, Salon)
    -REVIEW : of The First Eagle (Val McDermid, Tangled Web uk)
    -REVIEW : of The First Eagle (Mostly Fiction)
    -REVIEW : of Hunting Badger (1999) (Marilyn Stasio, NY Times Book Review)
    -REVIEW : of Hunting Badger (Brian Ritterspak, Crime Time Online uk)
    -AWARD : 1973 Dance Hall of the Dead - Tony Hillerman (Edgar Award)

    -FILMOGRAPHY : Tony Hillerman (
    -INFO : The Dark Wind (1991) (

Other Navajo mysteries by Tony Hillerman :
    -The Blessing Way (1970)
    -Dance Hall of the Dead (1973)
    -Listening Woman (1978)
    -People of Darkness (1980)
    -The Dark Wind (1982) (Tony Hillerman  1925-)   (Grade: B)
    -The Ghostway (1984)
    -Skinwalkers (1986)
    -A Thief of Time (1988)
    -Talking God (1989)
    -Coyote Waits (1990)
    -Sacred Clowns (1993)
    -The Fallen Man (1996)
    -The First Eagle (1998)
    -Hunting Badger (1999)