Review: The Tale Teller by Anne Hillerman

Title: The Tale Teller by Anne Hillerman
Leaphorn, Chee & Manuelito Series Book 23
Publisher: Harper
Genre: Contemporary, Mystery
Length: 320 pages
Book Rating: B+

Complimentary Review Copy Provided by Publisher Through Edelweiss


Legendary Navajo policeman Lieutenant Joe Leaphorn takes center stage in this riveting atmospheric mystery from New York Times bestselling author Anne Hillerman that combines crime, superstition, and tradition and brings the desert Southwest vividly alive.

Joe Leaphorn may have retired from the Tribal Police, but he finds himself knee-deep in a perplexing case involving a priceless artifact—a reminder of a dark time in Navajo history. Joe’s been hired to find a missing biil, a traditional dress that had been donated to the Navajo Nation. His investigation takes a sinister turn when the leading suspect dies under mysterious circumstances and Leaphorn himself receives anonymous warnings to beware—witchcraft is afoot.

While the veteran detective is busy working to untangle his strange case, his former colleague Jim Chee and Officer Bernie Manuelito are collecting evidence they hope will lead to a cunning criminal behind a rash of burglaries. Their case takes a complicated turn when Bernie finds a body near a popular running trail. The situation grows more complicated when the death is ruled a homicide, and the Tribal cops are thrust into a turf battle because the murder involves the FBI.

As Leaphorn, Chee, and Bernie draw closer to solving these crimes, their parallel investigations begin to merge . . . and offer an unexpected opportunity that opens a new chapter in Bernie’s life.


The Tale Teller by Anne Hillerman is a perplexing mystery with three distinct cases. Although this newest release is twenty-third installment in the Leaphorn, Chee & Manuelito series, it can easily be read as a standalone.

Retired Lieutenant Joe Leaphorn is a private investigator and consultant to the Tribal Police. At his live-in companion Louisa’s request, Joe is working to find a few missing items from a recent donation.  The bequest is anonymous so Joe is faced with the daunting task of trying to figure out what happened to a dress that is an extremely important part of Navajo history. A bracelet is also missing and Louisa is certain she knows who crafted the beautiful piece of jewelry. With her assistance, Joe begins the arduous task of tracking down who donated the items to the museum.  Early in his investigation, Museum Director Daisy Pinto’s assistant Tiffany Benally dies under very mysterious circumstances. Joe cannot help but wonder if her death is somehow related to the missing relics, but will he unearth the connection between the two cases?

Officer Bernie Manuelito is out for a jog when she discovers a dead body on a popular trail.  Quickly realizing his death was not accidental, she preserves the scene while waiting for the FBI to arrive. Although she is not officially assigned to the case, Bernie is curious about the victim’s identity and the motive for his murder. FBI Agent Sage Johnson is surprisingly pleasant during their conversations, and she does reveal a few interesting facts about the case to Bernie.

Meanwhile, Sergeant Jim Chee is working on a series of bewildering burglaries in which elderly people in the community have been targeted. The thefts are clearly the act of a pro since there is absolutely no evidence left the crime scenes. Chee finds it very intriguing that the thief zeroes in on where the items are hidden and does not damage the homes.

The Tale Teller is a riveting police-procedural that is fast-paced. The various investigations are interesting and through slow but steady investigations, Leaphorn, Chee and Manuelito uncover the truth. As always, the desert and surrounding are vibrantly detailed which makes it very easy to visualize the different settings. With some unexpected twists and a few surprising turns, Anne Hillerman brings the the various investigations to satisfying conclusions. Old and new fans are sure to enjoy this outstanding addition to the Leaphorn, Chee & Manuelito series.

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