Picks and Pans Review: Skinwalkers

updated 02/09/1987 AT 01:00 AM EST

originally published 02/09/1987 AT 01:00 AM EST

by Tony Hillerman

Jim Chee and Lt. Joe Leaphorn have appeared in other Hillerman mystery novels set among the Navajos in the West, and they've never been better company than they are in this book. Chee is a policeman who lives in a trailer. Thanks to a cat he has befriended, he wakes in the night, gets up and escapes three shotgun blasts fired into his bed. There are three murders that seem to have no connection, and Leaphorn wonders if Chee knows something he doesn't realize he knows. The most difficult cases for these police in the past have been those involving Indian superstitions. In this case, there are the skinwalkers, witches who have the power "to fly through the air, to run as fast as the wind can blow, to change themselves into dogs and wolves and maybe other animals." At the climax, Chee, who is practicing making sand pictures so that he can be a faith healer, is lured into a trap set by an unscrupulous villain. The author, who lives in Albuquerque, N.M., packs his novels with compelling details of Navajo life and beautiful descriptive passages about the land and weather. Chee, who must face the fact that the woman he loves probably is lost to him, is a perfect guide through Hillerman's effective, dreamlike world. (Harper & Row, $15.95)

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