18 Leaphorn & Chee Tony Hillerman Books In Order

The Leaphorn and Chee series of books by Tony Hillerman feature Navajo Nation police officers Joe Leaphorn and Jim Chee. He wrote a total of eighteen novels in this series.

Leaphorn & Chee Tony Hillerman Books In Order

The author received numerous awards for his work including the Grand Prix de Littérature Policière and the 1988 Anthony Award for Best Novel.

At the time of his death in 2008, there were 20 million copies of his books in print with several of them having been adapted into films.

His Leaphorn and Chee series has been made into a television series called Dark Winds.

About Leaphorn & Chee Series

Leaphorn, Chee & Manuelito

The books follow Navajo tribal police officers Lieutenant Joe Leaphorn and Jim Chee.

Leaphorn is introduced in the first book The Blessing Way with Chee joining him in the fourth novel, People of Darkness.

Set in the American Southwest, mostly in the Navajo Nation the books depict mysterious deaths and murders.

However, the two officers are not always in agreement, particularly about some of the supernatural traditions of the Navajo.

18 Tony Hillerman Books In Order

The Blessing Way

The Blessing Way

The first novel in the Leaphorn and Chee series of mysteries introduces Lieutenant Joe Leaphorn.

A body is found with its mouth full of sand and a distinct lack of clues or tracks in the vicinity.

Joe Leaphorn, despite his better judgment, has to consider the possibility of a supernatural killer.

Pros

  • Descriptive detailing
  • Intriguing mystery

Cons

  • Contains some unfamiliar terms

Dance Hall Of The Dead

Dance Hall of the Dead: A Leaphorn & Chee Novel (A Leaphorn and Chee Novel, 2)

When two boys go missing leaving behind a trail of blood, Joe Leaphorn fears the worst. However, his investigation is being complicated by an archaeological dig and a hypodermic needle.

The religious rites and laws of the Zuñi people are also putting obstacles in his path.

Pros

  • Engaging story
  • Well paced

Cons

  • Not much insight into Leaphorn’s mind

Listening Woman

Listening Woman

The Listening Woman is a blind shaman who talks about restless spirits and witches. However, Joe Leaphorn is convinced the monster who murdered a teenager and an old man is human.

But he shouldn’t ignore the Listening Woman’s warnings as the investigation leads him away from the comprehensible.

Pros

  • Complex story
  • Lots of historical facts and spiritual beliefs

Cons

  • Abrupt ending

People Of Darkness

People of Darkness (Armchair Detective Library)

Inexplicable events are disturbing Jim Chee and drawing him into the Bad Country.

A wealthy woman agrees to pay three thousand dollars for a box of stolen rocks and a dying man is murdered.

An assassin is waiting for Jim Chee, protecting a thirty-year-old vision that was sired by greed and nourished by blood.

Pros

  • Immersive tale
  • Fascinating insights

Cons

  • Joe Leaphorn doesn’t feature much

The Dark Wind

The Dark Wind: A Leaphorn and Chee Novel (A Leaphorn and Chee Novel, 5)

A corpse is discovered and mutilated after death. Jim Chee knows that this will be a difficult case, particularly with the other mysterious occurrences that follow.

A plane crashes at night, a shipment of cocaine vanishes and there is a bizarre attack on a windmill. A dark wind is blowing through the Southwestern desert.

Pros

  • A gritty tale
  • Fast-paced

Cons

  • Abrupt ending

The Ghostway

The Ghostway: A Leaphorn and Chee Novel (A Leaphorn and Chee Novel, 6)

Two strangers argue and one ends up dead. The other, after showing a Polaroid of the man he’s looking for to Old Joseph Joe, drives into the Big Reservation.

Jim Chee is sent on a journey that goes from a trapped ghost in an Indian hogan to L.A. to an ancient ceremony for healing.

Pros

  • Thrilling plot
  • Vivid descriptions

Cons

  • Animal cruelty

Skinwalkers

Skinwalkers: A Leaphorn and Chee Novel (A Leaphorn and Chee Novel, 7)

When three shogun blasts rip through the side of Jim Chee’s trailer it raises questions.

Lieutenant Leaphorn considers why Chee was targeted and if there is any connection to a series of gruesome murders.

The investigation leads them to ritual, blood, and into the nightmare world of the skinwalkers.

Pros

  • Edge of your seat mystery
  • Skillfully woven story

Cons

  • Disparate storylines pulled together at the end

A Thief Of Time

A Thief of Time: A Leaphorn and Chee Novel (A Leaphorn and Chee Novel, 8)

The story centers on ancient Anasazi ruins and the work of an anthropologist studying ceramic pots. Initially accused of taking objects from the site, the scientist goes missing.

Despite mourning the recent death of his wife Lieutenant Joe Leaphorn must work with Jim Chee to find the missing woman as they already have two bodies on their hands.

Pros

  • Darkly atmospheric
  • Superb characterization

Cons

  • Slow-paced

Talking God

Talking God: A Leaphorn and Chee Novel (A Leaphorn and Chee Novel, 9)

Working separately, arresting a grave robber and investigating a murder, Lieutenant Leaphorn and Sergeant Jim Chee realize that their cases are connected.

Chee has arrested Smithsonian conservator Henry Highhawk for ransacking the bones of his ancestors. But others are pursuing Highhawk and their intentions are lethal.

Pros

  • Clever plot
  • Complex characters

Cons

  • Mostly based in Washington DC

Coyote Waits

Coyote Waits

A Navajo tribal police officer is killed, shot, and burned in her car. The person in possession of the murder weapon is a shaman called Ashie Pinto.

Jim Chee is deeply affected by the death of his friend and confused by Pinto’s refusal to speak about the crime. Joe Leaphorn believes there is more to this case.

Pros

  • Multi-layered mystery
  • Absorbing subplots

Cons

  • A little slow at times

Sacred Clowns

Sacred Clowns: A Leaphorn and Chee Novel (A Leaphorn and Chee Novel, 11)

A sacred clown is bludgeoned to death after a kachina ceremony and the killing is similar to a murder days before.

Joe Leaphorn and Jim Chee believe the final, cryptic message the koshare gave the Tano people holds the key to both murders. But they’ll have to delve into closely guarded tribal secrets.

Pros

  • Wonderfully descriptive
  • Explores traditional customs

Cons

  • Inconsistent pacing

The Fallen Man

The Fallen Man

Human remains are found on a mountain ledge, three hundred miles away a canyon guide is killed by a sniper’s bullet.

Despite being retired, Joe Leaphorn believes the two events are connected and recalls a previously unresolved mystery. But Jim Chee is too busy to work on old cases until it hits too close to home.

Pros

  • Well paced and suspenseful
  • New character introduced

Cons

  • Story seems fragmented

The First Eagle

The First Eagle (A Leaphorn and Chee Novel)

A Hopi poacher is found with the body of a butchered Navajo tribal police officer, and it looks like a straightforward case to Jim Chee. But retired lieutenant Joe Leaphorn believes otherwise.

Hired to find a missing female biologist, Leaphorn is not sure if she’s a suspect or another victim. And there is a report of a skinwalker in the same area.

Pros

  • Intricate plot
  • Leaphorn-Chee relationship at its best

Cons

  • Lots about Chee’s personal life

Hunting Badger

Hunting Badger (A Leaphorn and Chee Novel)

A gambling casino is targeted in a raid and the perpetrators disappear into the canyons of the Utah-Arizona border.

When a wounded deputy sheriff is the focus of the FBI investigation, Leaphorn and Chee launch their own investigation.

They find themselves in a perplexing manhunt, the most deadly of their careers.

Pros

  • A compelling read
  • Entertaining and balanced

Cons

  • Incomplete ending

The Wailing Wind

The Wailing Wind

New officer Bernie Manuelito thought the man curled on the truck seat was a drunk.

Her mishandling of a murder scene has repercussions for Sergeant Chee and brings Joe Leaphorn out of retirement.

Legends of lost gold mines, and an old case that Leaphorn never resolved combine to link the present and the past.

Pros

  • Gripping story
  • Well developed characters

Cons

  • Formulaic writing

The Sinister Pig

SINISTER PIG (A Leaphorn and Chee Novel, 16)

A corpse found at the edge of the Jicarilla Apache natural gas field attracts the attention of the FBI who claim it was the result of a ‘hunting accident’.

Joe Leaphorn is pulled out of retirement again to help the investigation. But former police officer Bernadette Manuelito may hold the key to unlocking this mystery.

Pros

  • Cleverly crafted plot
  • Gripping mystery

Cons

  • The writing style has changed

Skeleton Man

Skeleton Man: A Leaphorn and Chee Novel (A Leaphorn and Chee Novel, 17)

When a young boy is accused of robbing a trading post Sergeant Jim Chee and his fiancée Bernie Manuelito need to prove his innocence.

Joined by Joe Leaphorn they go looking for the remains of passengers who died in a plane crash decades earlier.

But they are not just battling the monsoon, and a killer but are in the realm of the Skeleton Man, the Hopi Lord of Death.

Pros

  • Fascinating mystery
  • Great subplot

Cons

  • Slow build-up

The Shape Shifter

The Shape Shifter

Another cold case for Lieutenant Leaphorn involving a priceless Navajo rug.

With Jim Chee and his wife Bernie Manuelito on their honeymoon, it’s up to Leaphorn to pick up the threads of this decades-old case.

But there is also a murderer long thought dead who has also surfaced again.

Pros

  • Atmospheric mystery
  • Riveting story

Cons

  • Writing is not as good as previously

Final Thoughts

The Leaphorn and Chee mystery novels are a great mixture of Native American traditions and beliefs and modern policing.

The books have been read and enjoyed by millions of people since first publication.

After the author passed away, his daughter Anne Hillerman continued the series, writing seven more novels.

Frequently Asked Questions

Where To Start With Tony Hillerman?

The best way to read the Tony Hillerman books is in the order in which they were written. This helps to follow the central characters’ development.

Is Dark Winds Based On A Book?

The Dark Winds television series is based on the Tony Hillerman books and is mostly inspired by Listening Woman.

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Anna Davis