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5.0 out of 5 stars A best selling Navajo detective story
"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...
Published on Jan. 8 2003 by Smallchief

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2.0 out of 5 stars Maybe I just don't like mysteries, but...
I can't see what everyone else loves so much about this book. I read it as a freshman in high school for English class, and most of my friends agree that it is bearable, but far from the best thing we've ever read. I mean, the story is so complicated that keeping track of all the information takes away from the fun of reading. It's also a dragged-out plot with characters...
Published on March 14 2002


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5.0 out of 5 stars A best selling Navajo detective story, Jan. 8 2003
"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.
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5.0 out of 5 stars Tony Hillerman Magic, Nov. 15 2002
By A Customer
Tony Hillerman once again takes us into the world of the Navajo with Chee and the legendary Leaphorn of the Navajo Tribal Police. Having just read "Skinwalkers" for the first time recently this one had big moccasins to fill. Not only did it fill them, but this exciting mystery may just be better. There is atmosphere to spare and Leaphorn and Chee are fleshed out more than usual in this terrific read.
Both Chee and Leaphorn are dealing with personal issues as this one begins. Chee hasn't quite figured out how he feels about Mary leaving him because he could not leave his Navajo way of life behind and move to the city with her. He is smitten with a pretty Navajo attorney named Janet but she's with someone else. Leaphorn meanwhile is on terminal leave and retiring after the unexpected death of his beloved wife Emma. Niether he or Chee can explain his obsession with finding a missing pot hunter named Eleanor Friedman-Bernal. No Navajo would be involved, as stealing pots like this would make one a "Thief of Time" according to Navajo tradition.
Chee's letting a rather large backhoe get stolen right under his nose will have ties to Leaphorn's investigation, and once more Chee will be helping Leaphorn all across the Navajo territory. This one will stretch all the way into Utah and down the San Juan River. Leaphorn will be reminded of young boy's death by drowning before this one wraps up and it will have unexpected ties to his search for Eleanor.
It seems Eleanor was into pots made by the Anasazi, a tribe that simply vanished from the face of the earth. Pictographs and petroglyphs of Kokopelli, the "Watersprinkler", play a part in this mystery. But her interest is also anthropological, and someone thinks what she's discovered is worth killing for. Leaphorn and Chee will be hundreds of miles apart when they reach the same conclusion in this complex mystery. One will have to race to the other as things turn ugly and two very different men will find commom ground when Leaphorn asks the unexpected of young Chee.
Hillerman has written a real gem here and his descriptions of the thousand foot cliffs along the San Juan River at night and a starry sky filled with Navajo mystery will enthrall you. This is a good mystery and a great read. You don't want to miss this one.
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4.0 out of 5 stars Good, but not Hillerman's Best (spoilers), July 27 2002
Blarg. I wrote my "Thief of Time" review under "Sacred Clowns" forgetting which book I was reviewing. So I'll keep this short. Thief of Time is often considered Hillerman's finest work in his Southwestern Mysteries, but I found it less satisfying than "Blessing Way" and "Sacred Clowns." In brief, Hillerman seemed to lose control of the book about halfway through and fell victim to the lazy writer's prop of killing a character to inject drama into the story. There were just too many deaths in this one and it contributed to a general lack of focus in the later chapters. And, as usual, I cared a great deal less about the Crime and the Criminals than Leaphorn and Chee. Hillerman's crooks and murderers just aren't fleshed out very well. The motivation in this case was an excellent one--but far too psychologically deep to hang on such a paper-thin character.
So there. I love reading Hillerman as much as the next man, but I'm not blind to his faults, the most prominent of which is on glaring display here--he has trouble with the resolutions to his stories, creating a deep, layered mystery, and then wrapping it up in an action movie style that just doesn't fit the earlier parts of his book.
RstJ
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4.0 out of 5 stars A fine introduction to Native American culture, July 18 2002
By 
Theodore A. Rushton (PHOENIX, Arizona United States) - See all my reviews
(REAL NAME)   
Hmmmmmmm . . . . . no reviews by anyone who claims to be one of the Dine, and therefore wants to analyze Hillerman on that basis.
Hillerman is a masterful story teller, and in this book brings a heavy load of social correctness into a typical mystery story. The central theme is the systematic looting of Native American sites on behalf of Anglos who are driven by greed for ancient artifacts. In this story, the greed has two faces; one is the monetary reward of finding and selling ancient artifacts for often vast sums of money, and the other is the greed for scholarly fame that is the reward for discovering new and sometimes shocking facts about Native Americans.
Would scholars be so crude ? Well, think of Regents Professor Christie G. Turner of Arizona State University who "proved" the ancestors of the Hopis and Zunis and other pueblo tribes were cannibals. It sure got him a lot of fame and attention.
Would pot hunters be so violent ? Having been trained as a site steward, a volunteer who checks known sites to deter looting, we were warned never to directly challenge anyone engaged in looting a site.
Put the two elements together, and you have the basis of the very plausible plot in this story. Then add the detective work of two Navajo Nation police officers, whose work often seems to be protecting the Navajos from the crimes of non-Navajos, and the result is a good story. Hillerman writes well, with a genuine affection for The People, but even at his best he's still an outsider looking at the intricacies of Navajo culture.
Who am I to judge Hillerman's portrayal of the Navajos ? Well, in my dealings with Navajo police officers, I found some to be much more introspective and analytical of differences between their culture and the outside world than Hillerman indicates. He also seems oblivious to the sharp and delightful Navajo sense of humor, perhaps because it is more subtle than the usual slapstick style of Anglo-American humor. He cites various clans, but doesn't seem to understand the sharp differences that sometimes exist among clans.
So, why read Hillerman ?
He's very worth reading because he offers a fine introduction to the People, and he is greatly honored among the Navajos for that reason. Some quibble over the authenticity of his facts - - - but there are equally vehement debates over the quality of fry bread from different parts of the Rez.
The fact is that Hillerman is a good writer. He offers a valued insight into Native American culture, which is an "Mulligan stew" of different beliefs, attitudes, values and opinions. Want a simple example of a major difference ?
In Anglo society, legal issues are resolved in the courts on the basis of confrontational arguments which produce a clear winner and loser -- called "Guilty or Innocent" -- a system based on jousting between champions chosen to represent the two sides in a dispute. In Navajo culture, the principle of Ke'e reflects a desire for consensus that seeks a harmonious resolution for all sides in a dispute. In addition to a legal system based on traditional Anglo law, the Navajos also have "Peacemaker" courts based on traditional Navajo values of consensus instead of confrontation.
Hillerman doesn't examine such subtleties; his stories are based on Anglo values of guilt and innocence, good and bad, truth and falsehood, right and wrong. A traditional Navajo, writing a similar book, would sympathize with the perpetrator as well as victim, as in the saying about never judging a person until you have walked a mile in their moccasins.
Yet, until such books are written -- think of a detective novel which ends in consensus instead of a clear designation of evil -- Hillerman will continue to rank among the best of Anglo views of Native American culture. Or, in terms of oriental culture, a journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step.
Hillerman has taken a thousand steps in introducing outsiders to Native American culture -- but, it's worth remembering his stories are only a few steps in a long journey.
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2.0 out of 5 stars Maybe I just don't like mysteries, but..., March 14 2002
By A Customer
I can't see what everyone else loves so much about this book. I read it as a freshman in high school for English class, and most of my friends agree that it is bearable, but far from the best thing we've ever read. I mean, the story is so complicated that keeping track of all the information takes away from the fun of reading. It's also a dragged-out plot with characters who, though likable, are not as well-developed as I would have liked. It's hard to picture what Chee, Leaphorn, Eleanor Friedman-Bernal, and everyone else look like because they never really describe them. And despite how much Leaphorn misses his dead wife Emma, he and Chee are hard to describe. They don't have very individual personalities. They're just Navajo Tribal Police investigating the disappearance of Friedman-Bernal and a chain of homicides in and around New Mexico. The whole time, I was never really entertained or thrilled or scared by this book. It seemed like it was only a series of repetitions of Eleanor's disappearance, the Anasazi pots she was looking for, who she bought them from, etc., and was basically about trying to figure out who sold these dumb pots to whom. New people kept getting thrown in all the time, but it all always came back to repeating the first chapter. Even the ridiculously holy Christian traveling preacher, who is Ned Flanders-like, Slick Nakai, didn't add that much to the story. Perhaps I missed something everyone else caught, but I would just not recommend this book. Everything in it is confusing. Even the description of the land, which should be beautiful and fascinating, is hard to keep track of all the names and where everybody is. I didn't think "A Thief of Time" deserved all the rave reviews it got.
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4.0 out of 5 stars A very unique crime series by a master storyteller., Feb. 28 2002
By 
David J. Gannon (San Antonio, TX USA) - See all my reviews
(REAL NAME)   
Tony Hillerman has created an extraordinary series with his tales of crime on the Navajo Reservations of New Mexico.
The books are unique for a number of reasons. The first is that there are two main characters, Joe Leaphorn, a senior investigator in the Navajo Police Force, and Jim Chee, the equivalent of a "patrolman" on the force. In some books, both make appearances, in some only on of them is on the scene.
Then there is the fact that Hillerman genuinely knows about both the nature and history of the Navajo Nation, both past and present. This lends an aura of authenticity and credibility to the novels that is consistently present throughout the series.
On top of all that, Hillerman understands and can effectively convey a realistic projection of actual criminal process and procedure.
Finally, Hillerman is able to portray the cultural dissonance that marks life on and around the reservation, both within the tribe as well as with relations of the tribe to the larger community without indulging in any sort of editorializing that would detract from the tale.
This was the first Hillerman novel I read, and while not quite up to the standards of his very best work, it's close. The story revolves around the plundering of Navajo burial treasures and an associated murder.
But, like all the Hillerman novels, it's not the details of the story that count-it's Hillerman's ability to transport us to another world within our world and make us at home there while telling a great story in a realistic and truly believable fashion.
If you have not treated yourself to some of the Navajo Nation series, you are really missing out on a real treat.
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5.0 out of 5 stars I love this Hillerman guy, Nov. 10 2003
By 
Peggy Vincent "author and reader" (Oakland, CA) - See all my reviews
(REAL NAME)   
Did you know you can take a topographical map of the Four Corners area and track every arroyo, every butte, every mesa and canyon and rio seco mentioned in Hillerman's books? They're all there. Just get yourself a 4-wheel drive vehicle and go off road and have an adventure as you read each of his mystery tales. Right where he says the truck in his book went left into what looks like an untracked wilderness down a barely-visible double track leading to god knows where, sure enough, there those faint tracks in the dust appear.
Set against the backdrop of the long-vanished Anasazi, Hillerman weaves a complex tale setting Anglo culture against the values of the Dinai, the Navajo tribal people. Elderly Joe Leaphorn and brash newcomer Jim Chee (with one foot in the spirituality of the Navajo healers and the other in the Western world) combine forces to solve the mystery surrounding the disappearance of an anthropologist.
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5.0 out of 5 stars criminal cases, April 17 2003
By 
brandon (Monroe,N.C.) - See all my reviews
Book Review
Have you ever watched Cops or America's Most Wanted? Well, Tony Hillerman calls the book that I am about to tell you about A Thief Of Time. This book is interesting because it was about police stories and how criminals always seem to get away from the cops every time they seem to commit a crime.
If you like police stories, then you will absolutely love this book. It is about police stories that happened a long time ago. It is about how they steal precious pottery and priceless jewelry. The thief is too quick however; the police are just too slow to catch them.
It was in a second persons point of view. "Now she picked it up, put an arm through the carry strap, changed her mind. She unzipped the side pocket and extracted the pistol. It was a .25 caliber automatic." Leaphorn was a dynamic character because he changed throughout the entire book.
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5.0 out of 5 stars criminal cases, April 17 2003
By 
brandon (Monroe,N.C.) - See all my reviews
Book Review
Have you ever watched Cops or America's Most Wanted? Well, Tony Hillerman calls the book that I am about to tell you about A Thief Of Time. This book is interesting because it was about police stories and how criminals always seem to get away from the cops every time they seem to commit a crime.
If you like police stories, then you will absolutely love this book. It is about police stories that happened a long time ago. It is about how they steal precious pottery and priceless jewelry. The thief is too quick however; the police are just too slow to catch them.
It was in a second persons point of view. "Now she picked it up, put an arm through the carry strap, changed her mind. She unzipped the side pocket and extracted the pistol. It was a .25 caliber automatic." Leaphorn was a dynamic character because he changed throughout the entire book.
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5.0 out of 5 stars criminal cases, April 17 2003
By 
brandon (Monroe,N.C.) - See all my reviews
Book Review
Have you ever watched Cops or America's Most Wanted? Well, Tony Hillerman calls the book that I am about to tell you about A Thief Of Time. This book is interesting because it was about police stories and how criminals always seem to get away from the cops every time they seem to commit a crime.
If you like police stories, then you will absolutely love this book. It is about police stories that happened a long time ago. It is about how they steal precious pottery and priceless jewelry. The thief is too quick however; the police are just too slow to catch them.
It was in a second persons point of view. "Now she picked it up, put an arm through the carry strap, changed her mind. She unzipped the side pocket and extracted the pistol. It was a .25 caliber automatic." Leaphorn was a dynamic character because he changed throughout the entire book.
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A Thief Of Time
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