Thursday, April 28, 2011

Mystery Review: The Ghostway

Here's a description of the book from HarperCollins Publishers:

"Old Joseph Joe sees it all. Two strangers spill blood at the Shiprock Wash-O-Mat. One dies. The other drives off into the dry lands of the Big Reservation, but not before he shows the old Navajo a photo of the man he seeks.

This is all Tribal Policeman Jim Chee needs to set him off on an odyssey that moves from a trapped ghost in an Indian hogan to the seedy underbelly of L.A. to an ancient healing ceremony where death is the cure, and into the dark heart of murder and revenge."

My Review:

After years of having my dad tell me how amazing Tony Hillerman’s books are, I finally know what all the excitement is about! Tony Hillerman weaves an exceptional story in The Ghostway: intriguing, thrilling, and thought-provoking. And once the end is in sight, it’s difficult to put down!

Navajo Tribal Police Officer Jim Chee is introduced as a character forced to make a personal decision that will determine how he identifies himself and how the rest of his life will play out. With his conflicted love life on his mind, Chee is thrust into a case that will lead him on a physically and emotionally intense journey to discover the truth—both of the identification of the murderer, victims, and other people involved in the series of crimes, as well as the identification of himself.

Hillerman’s descriptions of the western setting are powerful, seen from the eyes of a Native American law officer and the eyes of a paranoid killer. Navajo rituals and beliefs are also woven into the story in a powerful way and make for a wonderfully complex and interesting read. And a Navajo perspective on the “outside” world of the typical white man in America (such as how he treats the elders in his world) gives the story a depth that will make readers take a step back and see a familiar culture with new, and perhaps critical, eyes.

The Ghostway is a story that kept my attention and made me eager for more. There are a few swear words and not-so-pretty scenes, but overall this story is pretty “clean” and yet realistic and engaging. The strength of the main characters, the twists and turns of the plot, and the sensitive way in which the story is told make The Ghostway a must-read!

Disclaimer: This book was assigned reading for my Literature of the American West class, and this review was written and turned in to be graded by my professor. It should also be noted that this is not a Christian fiction book, which is the category of books I generally review on this blog. However, I truly did enjoy reading this, and I'm hoping to borrow some more books by this author when I get home, as my dad has pretty much the whole collection!

6 comments:

Vince said...

Hi Amber:

Tony Hillerman is one of my favorite authors. I think his early books are the best. If you read another of his books, I suggest you pick one that was written before The Ghostway. (1984).

The Blessing Way (1970)
Dance Hall of the Dead (1973)
Listening Woman (1978)
People Of Darkness (1980)
The Dark Wind (1982)


All his books are good and fans think he wrote far too few of them. Tony was a total pantser and he wrote that he had a chest full of incomplete manuscripts he didn’t know how to finish.

Vince

Amber S. said...

Vince,

I think you and my dad are on the same page. :) And I have to say, I really enjoyed this book and I hope to read more soon! Thank you for the suggestion of reading some of the earlier ones next. I guess it would probably have been good to read them in order, but I definitely understand why we read this particular one in our Lit. of the American West class--it showed the contrast between L.A. and the Navajo Reservation so well! And the identity theme is very powerful. But now that I'm hooked, I'll have to go back to the earlier ones. :)

That's interesting that the author was a "pantser." I think that approach would be even more difficult when writing mystery novels with such complex plots...

Thank you for sharing your thoughts!

~Amber

Vince said...

Hi Amber:

Hillerman once said that if he didn’t know what was going to happen next, the reader sure wouldn’t know either. This lead to many abandoned manuscripts and a huge lament among Hillerman fans because the books seem to come out after torturously long waiting periods.

In fact, an industry developed with Hillerman copycats filling in the gaps between Tony’s books.

I agree 100% that The Ghostway would be the best Hillerman book for your Lit. class. If your father has not read Hillerman’s biography, it would make a fine gift. He was an Oklahoma Indian and he worried that the Navajos would not accept him. At the time the Navajos didn’t even have the ‘police force’ Hillerman wrote about. Yet the Navajos loved him and his work. His biography is great reading.

Vince

Renee Ann said...

I've so enjoyed Tony Hillerman! I've read and listened to his stories. I picked up a few of his novels on tape at a library sale. They were so interesting to listen to, it made me forget how long I was in my car. He created great characters, especially Jim Chee and Joe Leaphorn! Great review, Amber!

Amber S. said...

Vince,

That's true! I found in my own writing that while I wasn't a complete "pantser," I liked it when my characters surprised me. And if they surprised me, then maybe they will surprise future readers! :)

We did talk a little about Hillerman's life in class, and I think his background is so interesting! Wasn't he made an honorary Navajo? :)

And thank you for another great suggestion! I'll definitely have to keep that in mind...unless, of course, my dad ends up reading these comments! ;)

~Amber

Amber S. said...

Renee Ann,

Glad to meet another Hillerman fan! :) My dad loves these books, and on vacation he often has one with him. He gets absorbed in them even though he's read them all before! ;) And now I finally see why!

I agree about Hillerman's characters, at least from what I've seen so far! I can't wait to read more about them! :)

Thanks for stopping by!

~Amber