A Comprehensive Guide to Tony Hillerman’s Novels: Discovering Order and Context


Tony Hillerman, a highly esteemed author, has made incredible contributions to the world of literature. His gripping mystery novels, set against the backdrop of Navajo culture and landscapes, have captivated readers worldwide. With deep characters, authentic settings, and intricately woven plots, Hillerman’s books are a treasure trove of engaging storytelling. To better appreciate the narrative journey, an exploration of Tony Hillerman’s books in their intricately plotted order is warranted.

The Adventures of Joe Leaphorn and Jim Chee

Hillerman’s primary achievements are his mystery novels featuring Lieutenant Joe Leaphorn and Officer Jim Chee of the Navajo Tribal Police. This section delves into the progressive order of these compelling stories.

  1. The Blessing Way (1970): This novel introduces us to Joe Leaphorn navigating a murder case entwined with Navajo spiritual beliefs.

  2. Dance Hall of the Dead (1973): The second novel brings back Lieutenant Leaphorn on a case involving the disappearance of a young Zuni boy and a Navajo boy found murdered.

  3. Listening Woman (1978): Third in line, this novel follows Leaphorn as he endeavors to solve the mysterious murder of an elderly Navajo woman.

As we venture further into Hillerman’s literary ecosystems, we encounter Officer Jim Chee’s introduction. This sub-heading outlines these interactions.

  1. People Of Darkness (1980): Officer Jim Chee dips his toes into the Hillerman world here. He is assigned to a car bombing case, bringing a fresh perspective with his deep-rooted understanding of Navajo traditions.

  2. The Dark Wind (1982): Jim Chee’s character deepens as he investigates multiple crimes involving a drug smuggling operation.

Several novels show Leaphorn and Chee working together, combining their unique skills and perspectives to tackle complex cases.

  1. Skinwalkers (1986): This novel marks a significant turn in Hillerman’s literary universe, uniting Leaphorn and Chee for the first time. They chase down a deranged murderer whose killing spree has the entire Navajo Nation on edge.

With these introductions complete, we go deeper into the progressive chronology of Hillerman’s other works.

Progressive River of Hillerman’s Genius

Building on the established timelines, we journey further into the chronology of his work.

  1. A Thief of Time (1988): In this groundbreaking novel, we see Leaphorn and Chee investigating the vanishing of an anthropologist excavating ancient Native American sites.

  2. Coyote Waits (1990): This novel provides a rich investigation into the murder of a fellow tribal police officer, instigated by Officer Chee.

  3. Sacred Clowns (1993): This elaborate tale weaves together a school performance with a murder behind a trading post, drawing both Chee and Leaphorn into its web.

  4. The Fallen Man (1996): Leaphorn and Chee reunite to uncover the mysterious circumstance of a mountaineer discovered dead high atop a sacred Navajo peak.

  5. The First Eagle (1998): Amidst a deadly plague threatening local bird populations, Chee and Leaphorn work to clear a fellow officer charged with murder.

Subsequent novels added to Hillerman’s mastery, including Hunting Badger (1999), The Wailing Wind (2002), The Sinister Pig (2003), Skeleton Man (2004), and The Shape Shifter (2007). Each of these works further unveils the chronology of this extraordinary universe, breathing life into the characters of Chee and Leaphorn.

Epilogue: A Legacy Continued

Anne Hillerman, Tony’s daughter, skillfully and respectfully continued her father’s work after his passing in 2008. Notably, Spider Woman’s Daughter (2013) and Rock with Wings (2015) build on the foundational characters, amplifying this remarkable literary legacy.


Exploring Tony Hillerman’s books in order unravels a thriving universe of mystery, culture, and unforgettable characters painted on a canvas of vibrant storytelling. Delving into the chronology allows readers to immerse deeper into the layered narratives and engage with the evolving dynamics of Leaphorn and Chee’s partnership. Each novel, while individually enticing, becomes a part in the magnificent puzzle that is the world Tony Hillerman has built. Unraveling this order provides an enriched understanding and a fulfilling reading experience.

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