Leaphorn & Chee Books

Originally, the series was written by Tony Hillerman, but after he died in 2008, his daughter Anne took over the writing. The first book that she wrote came out in 2013, seven years after the last book her dad had written. She made Officer Bernadette Manuelito the main character. It also only starred the “Legendary Lieutenant”, Joe Leaphorn, for the first three novels. Jim Chee does not show up until the fourth book. Jim Chee was created to be a counter to Leaphorn, because for one of the novels, he needed someone more naive to fit the plot that he was writing. Chee fit the bill, Leaphorn did not. Hillerman began writing the series is the late seventies.

Order of Leaphorn & Chee Series

# Read Title Published
1 The Blessing Way 1970
2 Dance Hall of the Dead 1973
3 Listening Woman 1978
4 People of Darkness 1980
5 The Dark Wind 1982
6 The Ghostway 1984
7 Skinwalkers 1986
8 A Thief of Time 1988
9 Talking God 1989
10 Coyote Waits 1990
11 Sacred Clowns 1992
12 The Fallen Man 1996
13 The First Eagle 1998
14 Hunting Badger 1999
15 The Wailing Wind 2002
16 The Sinister Pig 2003
17 Sinister Pig 2003
18 Skeleton Man 2004
19 The Shape Shifter 2006
20 Spider Woman's Daughter 2013
21 Rock with Wings 2015
22 Song of the Lion 2017
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At first, Bergen McKee was the star of the first novel, “The Blessing Way”, with Leaphorn taking a backseat. He was convinced, by his editors to expand Leaphorn’s role. Which he did. The novel took three years to write, and came from him practicing writing by remembering a Native American ceremony that he witnessed. Upon completion, he sent the manuscript to Joan Kahn, who edited at the time for Harper & Row (which is now HarperCollins).


“Dance Hall of the Dead”, book two in “Leaphorn and Chee” series won an Edgar for Best Mystery. “Skinwalkers” won the best novel award from Anthony Awards.


Some of this series has been adapted into movies, either for the big or small screen. These novels include “Coyote Waits”, “A Thief of Time”, “Skinwalkers”, “The Dark Wind”.


For those readers looking to get into the “Leaphorn and Chee” series by Anne Hillerman, this next section will help you out with that. It will go over the novels “The Blessing Way”, “Dance Hall of the Dead”, and “Listening Woman”.

The Blessing Way: An anthropologist who is named Bergen McKee comes to the Navajo Reservation so that he can do some research on stories about witches and see his old friend from college Joe Leaphorn. He is a lieutenant with the Navajo Tribal Police. Thinking that the man that he fought with was killed by his hands drops out of sight, his name is Luis Horseman. The victim lived, and Joe spreads the word around to get him to come in. Leaphorn drops a statement for someone else to hear, and feels, after another event happens, responsible for it.

Dance Hall of the Dead: Two boys go missing from the Zuni school. The Zuni look for one boy, but the other is looked for by Leaphorn as he is Navajo. The police find the Zuni boy and he was brutally killed. Tracks for the other boy are found there at the scene and the Navajo boy is quite a good hunter. He has even skipped school on certain days so that he can go hunting; this is so that he will not go hungry that night, nor will his father and brother. He wants guidance on a spiritual level, since he is the only Navajo boy at the school that he goes to.

Listening Woman: Leaphorn is nearly killed by a driver while taking a routine police call. He is trying to catch someone that was able to get away, rather than be arrested. Leaphorn gets out of his car and the guy tries to run him down. He gets a good look at the guy and is able to get a description out. He needs the help of a blind shaman woman called “Listening Woman” with the case he is working. She talks of spirits who are restless and witches and things of supernatural evil being released. Joe believes that the people who killed the old man and young girl was a human. That is all. The solution to the whole thing lives in the someone who died and some things that happened a century ago. It is wrong to go against the warnings of a seer, might even be reckless. His investigation leads him into something a lot more incomprehensible. Not to mention, into the most violent and brutal confrontation that he has ever encountered in his whole career.


“Wind River Reservation Mysteries” series by Margaret Coel. This series is set on the reservation and shows the Arapahos tribe, and the cases are based on real crimes and nasty things. The author read about some of them in the newspaper and then put them in a book.

“Longmire” series by Craig Johnson. This bestselling and long running series is from the mystery genre that has been adapted into the television series of the same name.