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The First Eagle (1998)

by Tony Hillerman

Series: Leaphorn/Chee (13)

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1,840259,175 (3.84)73
PI Joe Leaphorn of Arizona investigates the murder of an Indian policeman for which an eagle poacher has been arrested. Leaphorn thinks someone else did it. By the author of The Fallen Man.
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Yet another good Chee/Leaphorn mystery about a murdered policeman and missing plague researcher.
  derailer | Jan 25, 2024 |
In The First Eagle, Tony Hillerman once again crafted a fresh and involving entry in his fine series about the Navajo Tribal Police. In this one, the retired Leaphorn is still at loose ends after a tragic death close to home. Chee, meanwhile, has become acting Lieutenant, but is having misgivings over the possibility that it will become permanent. There is a tad less of the Navajo mysticism in this entry, but the vast territory covered by the Navajo Tribal Police is given its due as always.

Hillerman dedicated The First Eagle to six officers who had given their lives in defense of their people from the time he wrote his first book until this one. It is only fitting that while keeping true to the Navajo atmosphere always present in the series, good police work and the very real dangers involved for the Tribal Police are brought to the forefront.

Leaphorn is asked to look for the missing Catherine Pollard. His unofficial inquiry will intersect with Chee's investigation into an officer's death. Chee's case is seemingly wrapped up, but may be more complex than it first appeared. Chee is chagrined to discover he is still a little intimidated by Leaphorn, but as the two cases cross paths, they will peel back the veneer and move closer to understanding one another.

This one has everything from poaching eagles to the possibility of the bubonic plague being spread all across the Navajo landscape. Why a pack of prairie dogs are unaffected, and an old Navajo woman who claims to have seen a skinwalker will figure greatly into the exciting conclusion to this one. The ending is also heartfelt for Chee, as his relationship with the pretty lawyer Janet begins to flame out, for she may be Navajo in name only after her time in Washington.

While this entry in the series is a bit different, I highly recommend it. Another fine read in one of the truly great mystery series which has often been copied, but never equaled. ( )
  Matt_Ransom | Oct 6, 2023 |
A compact mystery with a deceptively deliberate pace in which the retired Joe Leaphorn agrees to search for a missing woman who disappeared the day and place where Lieutenant Jim Chee found a poacher over the dead body of one of his officers. In a fairly short span both are able to resolve not only their cases but aspects of their private lives. ( )
  quondame | May 27, 2023 |
The First Eagle is an interesting book. The Bubonic Plague is a real problem in the southwest desert. There are scientists who have devoted their lives to research it. Fascinating. This is a good book and highly recommended. ( )
  lbswiener | Sep 10, 2021 |
Interesting mystery, but the details of the search for bubonic plague vectors was overly detailed and ultimately off-putting. The foreshadowing of 'who-dun-it' turned the mystery into a predictable discovery, unlike many of Hillerman's other stories. Not one of my favourites. Perhaps if I'd read the Hillerman oeuvre in publication order, the narrative would have seemed fresh. ( )
  SandyAMcPherson | Sep 26, 2019 |
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Since I began my fictional relationship with the Navajo Tribal Police, six of its officers have been killed while performing their duty. A small force covering a vast expanse of mountains, canyons, and desert, they must work primarily alone. In case of danger help is often hours away even if their radio calls for backup are heard.

I dedicate this work to these six officers and their families. They gave their lives in defense of their people.

Burton Begay, Tuba City, 1975. Loren Whitehat, Tuba City, 1979. Andy Begay, Kayenta, 1987. Roy Lee Stanley, Kayenta, 1987. Hoskie Gene Jr., Kayenta, 1995. Samuel Redhouse, Crownpoint, 1996.
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The body of Anderson Nez lay under a sheet on the gurney, waiting.
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(Click to show. Warning: May contain spoilers.)
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PI Joe Leaphorn of Arizona investigates the murder of an Indian policeman for which an eagle poacher has been arrested. Leaphorn thinks someone else did it. By the author of The Fallen Man.

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For acting chief Jim Chee, the murder of a Navajo Tribal Police Officer seems like an open-and-shut case when he discovers a Hopi poacher huddled over the victim's butchered corpse. However, Chee's newly retired predecessor, Joe Leaphorn, believes otherwise.

Hired to find a missing biologist who was searching for the key to a virulent hidden plague - and who vanished in the same area and on the same day the policeman was slain - Leaphorn suspects both events are somehow connected. And the reported sighting of a 'skinwalker' - a Navajo witch - has Leaphorn and Chee seeking answers to a deadly riddle in a dark place where superstition and science collide.
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