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The First Eagle

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About the Author

Tony Hillerman has received the Edgar and Grandmaster Awards from the Mystery Writers of America. He has written many novels, and Hillerman Country was published by HarperCollins.


YA-Acting Lieutenant Jim Chee of the Navajo Tribal Police is investigating the murder of a fellow officer-apparently committed by a young Hopi poaching eagles for ceremonial purposes. Chee's former mentor, Joe Leaphorn, is now retired and on his first case as a private detective, looking for a missing biologist who has been studying the spread of infectious diseases on the reservation. The men's destinies intersect once more in this case in which clues, like eagles, can only be found and understood by those who belong to the world of the reservation. Hillerman communicates a sense of the great space, beauty, and physical hardship of the desert landscape, and of the character of the people who live there. The mystery is set against a cultural backdrop of conflicts between Navajo and Hopi, Tribal and FBI law enforcement, sheep camp and city Navajo, and government and academic scientists studying disease outbreaks. The solution to the murder mystery comes stunningly into focus once the clues are all present and understood-but sadly (and true to life), the larger question of justice on the reservation, like the fate of the first eagle, is left unresolved. A disturbing but fascinating story.-Christine C. Menefee, Fairfax County Public Library, VA

Tony Hillerman's novels are always eagerly awaited and highly praised: 'Hillerman is strong on story, certain about character, and hard to over-recommend' New Yorker 'The man is a master' The Independent

The modern resurgence of the black death animates Hillerman's 14th tale featuring retired widower Navajo Tribal Police Lieutenant Joe Leaphorn and Acting Lieutenant Jim Chee. Bubonic plague has survived for centuries in the prairie-dog villages of the Southwest, where its continuing adaptation to modern antibiotics has increased its potential for mass destruction. Leaphorn is hired by a wealthy Santa Fe woman to search for her granddaughter, biologist Catherine Pollard, who has disappeared during her field work as a "flea catcher," collecting plague-carrying specimens from desert rodents. At the same time, Jim Chee arrests Robert Jano, a young Hopi man and known poacher of eagles, in the bludgeoning death of another Navajo Police officer at a site where the biologist was seen working. As Leaphorn learns more about Pollard's work from her boss in the Indian Health Service and an epidemiologist with ties to a pharmaceutical company, the U.S. Attorney's office decides to seek the death penalty against Jano, who is being represented by Chee's former fiancée, Janet Pete, recently returned from Washington, D.C. Hillerman's trademark melding of Navajo tradition and modern culture is captured with crystal clarity in this tale of an ancient scourge's resurgence in today's world. The uneasy mix of old ways and new is articulated with resonant depth as Chee, an aspiring shaman, is driven to choose between his career and his commitment to the ways of his people, and Leaphorn moves into a deeper friendship with ethnology professor, Louisa Bourebonette. Author tour. (Aug.) FYI: Simultaneous release by HarperAudio in abridged ($25 ISBN 0-694-52011-X) and unabridged ($34.95 ISBN 0-694-52051-9) editions.

After a less than successful attempt at writing a detective novel based in Vietnam (Finding Moon, Audio Reviews, LJ 1/96), Hillerman returns to his two unforgettable characters‘Navajo tribal police lieutenant Jim Chee and his mentor/partner Joe Leaphorn‘who have enchanted mystery lovers and literati through over a dozen novels (e.g., The Fallen Man, Audio Reviews, LJ 3/15/97). Leaphorn, retired a year, takes on a private investigation, searching for the vanished niece of a wealthy and somewhat eccentric woman. Cathy Pollard was, until her disappearance, a medical researcher investigating a terrifying outbreak of bubonic plague. For the uninitiated listener, the complex web of characters and their past relationships can sometimes seem like tuning into the middle of a soap opera. This reviewer found herself playing and replaying sections to get everything straight. But by the third tape, it no longer matters; we know every protagonist and can almost anticipate their actions. George Guidall, reading Hillerman for the first time, gives a delightful performance.‘Rochelle Ratner, formerly with "Soho Weekly News," New York

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