As long time fans of Tony Hillerman know, Navaho Tribal Police officers Jim Chee and Joe Leaphorn didn't always work together. In fact, for the first half dozen or so novels in Hillerman's series of mysteries, the two characters were pretty much independent of one another, starring in their own novels without the benefit of each others company (although Leaphorn does get a passing reference in the Jim Chee-centered People of Darkness). But all that changed with Skinwalkers, where for the first time Hillerman has his two principal characters work together side-by-side on a case, and in the process start what has to be one of the best Holmes-Watson combinations in all of literature.
The book starts out with a bang, literally. Someone fires three shots into Jim Chee's dilapidated trailer while he's inside, missing him by inches. Why someone would want to kill him he hasn't the faintest idea, but is there any connection between this and three unsolved murders on the Navaho reservation? And how, of all things, do reports of witchcraft and "skinwalkers" (the evil shape-changers of Navaho myth) fit into the puzzle? Lt. Leaphorn wants to know, Sgt. Chee can't let so personal a mystery go uninvestigated, and before long the two are navigating their way through that trademark intricate array of clues woven with Navaho folklore that have made Hillerman such a staple with mystery fans.
It's hard to dislike any of the novels in this series, and Skinwalkers is one of the best. The mystery is tight and interesting, the characters engaging, and there is that whole fascinating world of the Dinee, the Navaho people, that Hillerman so obviously loves to explore. Skinwalkers is especially a good place to start for those who have never read a Navaho Tribal Police novel before, because it is at the start of the Leaphorn & Chee combination that has dominated the series ever since (although don't forget to pick up those earlier novels!). Highly recommended.