Dance Hall of the Dead by Tony Hillerman



Dance hall of the dead Dance Hall of the DeadTony Hillerman; Harper Paperbacks 1990WorldCatJoe Leaphorn has been called in on the death of a Zuni young man. Navajos and Zuni do not trust or associate with each other, normally. But the youth, Ernesto Cata, had a close friend his age who is a Navajo, George Bowlegs. Bowlegs disappeared from school the day after his friend disappeared.

Leaphorn’s assignment is to find Bowlegs. It is unclear whether the Zuni elders believe Bowlegs is responsible for Cata’s death or just may know something about it. Leaphorn finds Bowlegs’ younger brother and their father, Shorty Bowlegs, a drunk. When Leaphorn returns for the elder Bowlegs to sober up, instead he discovers the old man was murdered by a blow to the head. He is certain the two deaths are related. George Bowlegs had returned to his home, packed some things, and left again.

The Zuni elders continue their hunt into Cata’s death. The FBI also joins the hunt. Leaphorn recognizes one of the agents – a narcotics agent. There is more going on. He continues his search for Bowlegs, interviewing his friends. Bowlegs, who everyone describes as slightly crazy, has unusual friends. He was friendly with a graduate student archeologist working on a dig for early native Americans and Folsom Man, a group older than our known tribes. He also spent time at a local commune that Leaphorn learns is probably passing drugs. Bowlegs’ friend is a young woman who left a bad family life into one that isn’t much better.

This is a short novel, probably best described as a novella. My knowledge of Native American costumes is fairly sparse, so the customs of the Zuni and the Navajo were interesting. Leaphorn’s patience as a tracker is phenomenal. The book doesn’t get very deep, sticking to the surface story. I was misdirected as Hillerman intended, and the actual murderer was not whom I expected.

More books by Tony Hillerman
Joe Leaphorn and Jim Chee series at Stop! You’re Killing Me!

Link to BooksLink to BetterWorld Books

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *