"A Thief of Time" is the eighth book in Tony Hillerman's Navajo detective series, but the first one to make national best seller lists and propel him into bigtime literary stardom.
"Thief" is one of Hillerman's least mysterious mysteries, but one of his most interesting books. He tells of the Anasazi, the ancient ones, an amazing proto-civilization of a thousand years ago that left ruins and potsherds scattered all over the austere, forbidding desert country of the Four Corners area. The mystery deals with ancient pots, the "thieves of time" who dig up graves and sell the pots they find, and of ambitious archaelogists who strive to make their reputations by discovering the secrets of the Anasazi.
Navajo detectives Joe Leaphorn and Jim Chee confront several mysteries: a missing archaeologist, a stolen backhoe, and the bodies of two pot thieves. For Leaphorn, the solution to the mystery goes back twenty years into his past to a canyon along the San Juan River in Utah.
Atmosphere is what Hillerman sells in his books and this one has it in abundance. Navajo culture and ceremonies, modern police work, and the treasures of the Anasazi are woven together into a landscape of pure, clean-aired natural beauty. The weather -- thunderstorms, droughts, sudden blizzards, the thunderheads of approaching doom -- is also prominent in Hillerman's novels. His books combine elements of mysteries, westerns, and exotic culture -- and they are really, really worth reading.