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At first the regular reader enjoys this, wanting to catch up on how Jim Chee and his girlfriend are doing, or how Emma's health is nowadays, but sadly, too many authors begin to use these recurring tropes as shortcuts to reader investment, and Hillerman eventually fell prey to it himself. His last few books were, well, not really very good. This is not to say they were bad — still quite readable, but there was nothing new in them, the "mysteries" were lukewarm, the involvement of all the regulars often forced and tertiary.

The setting was the same old setting and the Navajo elements were pro forma. Really, the stories in the last three books were pretty much just vehicles to move Chee and Manuelito along toward their eventual nuptials. Maybe like Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, his fans wouldn't let him, or maybe he just loved his characters too much to let go of them after all.

Four of his books were made into movies, all available on Netflix. Anyway, at last we come to this book, the eighteenth and last book in the series. There won't be any more, because Hillerman died in The Shape Shifter , to be fair, is better than the preceding two books, The Sinister Pig and Skeleton Man , which had me sadly shaking my head at just how much Hillerman the author was phoning it in.

But The Shape Shifter tries very hard to force a bit of Navajo mythology into the story, mostly by allusion; the plot is about an ex-CIA man, a Hmong refugee, and a very old cold case that draws the "legendary lieutenant" in the last half dozen or so books, this phrase will be repeated constantly in reference to "retired" Lieutenant Leaphorn out of retirement just like he has been in the last few books.

Chee and Manuelito barely figure into the plot at all; Hillerman has Leaphorn call Chee to ask him to do a little bit of legwork for him as an excuse to get the newlyweds peripherally involved. The "mystery" isn't really a mystery, at least not the sort where the author leaves clues to give the reader a chance to figure out what's going on before the climax. It's enjoyable light reading, but would I honestly recommend The Shape Shifter to anyone who isn't a Hillerman fan?

In itself, it is a 3-star book. I've been reading Tony Hillerman for 27 years now. I've just finished the last book he ever wrote or ever will write. And there are not many other series where I can say I've read all 18 books, in sequence.

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Do I remember all the details of each one, after all these years? No, most of them kind of blur together. Someday, I may just start over with The Blessing Way and reread them all again. View all 3 comments. Jun 06, Michael rated it really liked it Shelves: mythology , new-mexico , religion , mystery , fiction , native-american , spirituality. Starting with an odd incident of stolen pine sap, one clue leads to another, and soon Joe is led to a seemingly unlikely theory that can only be resolved through a trip to a remote hunting camp for a dangerous confrontation with his suspect.

In this case, he does not have Sergeant Jim Chee to help him on the case. His main partner in solving the case is a Hmong servant of the bad guy, who was brought by him as a boy from Laos after his service in Special Operations in the Vietnam War. Though unlike Chee he is no true believer in the myths of his people, he finds a lot of truth in their belief that evil arises from a loss of harmony with the natural world.

I do too. The darker side of the American dream, arising inexorably from the desire to accumulate wealth and pride in accomplishment, can readily be linked to the current threats to sustainability of the planetary ecosystem. Honoring such a rug would not be consistent with the Navajo concept of healing, and seeking profit from such an artifact represents bad juju of the highest order. In the story here, the premise is that the rug, which was supposed to have burned up in the fire of a trading post many years ago, has turned up in the possession of a wealthy dealer.

A person last visited by the dead insurance investigator. Along the way, Leaphorn draws his new Hmong friend out on the history of his people, finding interesting comparisons with the travails of the Navajo. Analogies in their religion over creation myths and the origins of evil provided a nice backdrop to the tale.

All in all, this was a satisfying ending to the series. Hillerman created a wonderful series of 18 mystery novels before his death in , and I will miss his voice. The Shape Shifter turns out to be a mixed bag. On the one hand, it's always a pleasure to reunite with the inestimable Joe Leaphorn, now retired from the Navaho Tribal Police and bored.

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On the other hand, readers will figure out what befell the clever but merciless fugitive Ray Shewnack before Leaphorn does. Long before a Hmong employee of mogul and art collector Jason Delos inadvertently reveals that Delos and Shewnack are one and the same, readers will have already figured that out. Tommy Vang, a Hmong refugee, seems oddly wide-eyed for a war orphan in the employ of a rather unscrupulous man. Sergeant Jim Chee, Leaphorn's erstwhile sidekick, and his new bride, Bernadette "Bernie" Manuelito, play just a minor role.

And Bernie, a brave and clever policewoman in previous novels, here turns into a rather silly woman, as if marriage melted women's brains! However, no one but a fellow Leaphorn super-fan will be able to even finish the novel. I should just hate this novel, but, having missed Lieutenant Joe Leaphorn for so long, I'll extend a bit of latitude to the late Tony Hillerman , his creator. View 1 comment.

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Sep 03, Morris Graham rated it it was ok. Before we start, I am a Hillerman fan. This was Tony Hillerman's last novel. He died at age 84, two years after this novel was done. A corespondent of his said that Hillerman reported he was 84, but felt Another reported that his handwriting indictated he was ill.


This book is not the quality of Hillerman's works. It is my opinion that he either started this, but felt too ill to do it right, or he started this and was unable to complete it and it was finished by a ghost writer. The author o Before we start, I am a Hillerman fan. The author overuses the term legendary-lieutenant, as if everyone in the world knows him and that is the first word that comes to mind when describing Joe Leaphorn, even total strangers.

There are some logic issues, as to why an international criminal with lots of money would take a job at an oscure trading post on the the reservation with a low cash flow just to kill someone over a few thousand dollars and a rug.

Hillerman's love to tell a historical story came through with the tale-tellers rug history. This had editing issues that were not cleaned up by the publisher. Whether or not Tony wrote this novel all by himself or it was completed by a ghost writer, we may never know.

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He was a great writer. The answer may be in the fact that Anne Hillerman, Tony's daughter, wrote her own Chee-Leaphorn novel under her own name "Spider Woman's Daughter," debuted in I would not be terribly surpised if "Shape Shifter" was really a colaboration with her aging father or maybe even ghost written under his name by her before she honed her writing craft.

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This is the last one of the series which was published before Hillerman's death. I didn't read it for a long time because I was saving it. The beginning started me wondering how much I would enjoy it, but I got very caught up with the story and it ended up being a great read for me.

Hillerman's daughter, Anne, is continuing the series with the characters. I'll be reading her first one in the near future. This was an enjoyable book that didn't quite live up to its potential. Perhaps if it were twice as long, the additional detail would make up for the minor shortcomings sprinkled throughout the work's structure. Not so much of a mystery, but more of a suspense thriller.

There were few misdirections and it was easy to guess how things were going to turn out relatively early in the narrative. The broad variety of plot elements Indian weaving history, Navajo and Hmong religious beliefs, Vietnam war This was an enjoyable book that didn't quite live up to its potential. The broad variety of plot elements Indian weaving history, Navajo and Hmong religious beliefs, Vietnam war activities, etc was certainly interesting, although the disparate elements were, for the most part, never really integrated in a convincing and coherent way.

The ending felt rushed, and many of the important plot elements were completely ignored at the conclusion. That said, it was still a fun story. My wife and I listened to the unabridged audiobook as we drove from southeast Utah to northern Colorado. It was a lot of fun to hear about the Four Corners locations as we drove through that same environment. George Guidall provides an excellent narration - his voice is clear, interesting, and he pronounces most of the Navajo words convincingly though he is perhaps a bit less accurate with the Hmong pronunciations.

I had never heard of this series before, and did not even know until afterward that this book was even part of a series, let alone the eighteenth book. It certainly works on its own merits, and can be enjoyed even if you've never read any of the previous volumes. Aug 24, Julie rated it liked it. First off I am very sad this is the last book of the series.

I liked Hillerman enough I won't read his daughter's continuation of the series. The end is the end. I was disappointed in a couple areas with this book. Bernie and Chee were not in it enough and I really like those two!!!! And next there were some interesting areas not explored enough such as the Hmong relationship, the antique rug history, and for once couldn't a book just be about a shape shifter????

I bought this because it was the last Hillerman, having read all the others, but the truth is that this is only a glorified first draft of a Hillerman novel, and it should never have been published in this condition. I'd have given it one star, if not for the sentimental attachment to the series.

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This is almost entirely a Joe Leaphorn story; with Jim Chee and Bernadette Chee yep, it happened given brief appearances at the beginning and the end. That's disappointing, and I'm not sure it was the I bought this because it was the last Hillerman, having read all the others, but the truth is that this is only a glorified first draft of a Hillerman novel, and it should never have been published in this condition. That's disappointing, and I'm not sure it was the original intent. Indeed, I have some suspicions that this novel stems from an earlier Leaphorn-has-just-retired manuscript that got shelved.

But having only one POV reduces the plot richness that was standard in the better Hillerman stories. The novel follows a cold case. A retired officer sends Leaphorn a letter, with a lifestyle magazine picture that includes an old Navajo rug in it. A rug that was reported as having burned up, in a case that Leaphorn worked on in his early days. Then the retired officer disappears. Leaphorn tries to find out what's going on, unofficially, and complications ensue.

This is a four-grimace novel about standard for Hillerman , but now I'll get to the 2-star issues. I read a goodly number of books in manuscript as part of my job, and this is clearly a first draft that somebody most likely not Hillerman cleaned up a bit so they could publish it. It has numerous plotting and narrating errors, where he forgets to tell us someone is in a scene, or forgets to mention a clue but brings it up later, or the text contradicts itself. The story forgets which highway the vehicle is on, or repeats information a second or third time, as though Leaphorn hadn't already learned this something.

Very tellingly, we keep getting told that Leaphorn has retired, and doesn't seem to know how to adapt. But here's the thing: Leaphorn retired four or five books earlier than this. He's been retired, but this book doesn't seem to be aware of that. A good Hillerman scene has about three things going on in it. If there's a conversation there's usually another thread going on in the character's mind, and yet a third thread going on in the actions. Here we're lucky to have one thing happening at once.

It has what I call technical term "oatmeal scenes," in which two characters are exchanging information, but nothing else is actually happening. So we get every bite they eat mentioned, every refilling of the coffee cups, every sip from the coffee cups. This is what writers do in the first draft, but in the rewrite they take all that nonsense out, and lay in another storyline between the bits of dialogue, which intensifies the scene, and enriches the book.

But not this book. Because this is a first draft, the ending doesn't really work, and there are numerous little logic errors near the end. Hillerman had set up a very nice, tense confrontation, fraught with danger, for the climax. But he didn't know what to do, and that shows when Leaphorn can't even come up with a plan.

So we get the narrator telling us that Leaphorn can't think of what to do, which weakens the motivation. This is the stuff a writer puts on paper when they're stuck, or lost, and which they'll discuss with their editor before revising. Obviously that didn't take place in this case. The last three paragraphs and their setup are not worth it.

Mar 11, Marissa rated it really liked it Shelves: mystery , native-american-fiction. I read this book in candlelight with the backdrop of howling wind and torrential rain. The blackout we had yesterday created the perfect setting for reading The Shape Shifter. Skinwalkers, according to Navajo culture, are creatures that embody evil. They can change shape and form--and not for good purposes! So when retired Navajo Tribal Policemen Joe Leaphorn gets tangled up in a decades old mystery and finds himself face to face with a modern-day skinwalker, it takes everything he has to outwit I read this book in candlelight with the backdrop of howling wind and torrential rain.

So when retired Navajo Tribal Policemen Joe Leaphorn gets tangled up in a decades old mystery and finds himself face to face with a modern-day skinwalker, it takes everything he has to outwit him. Hillerman is a masterful storyteller. The way he incorporates Native American mythology is fascinating. I loved the pacing in this book.

Hillerman knows how to set up a story and create suspense. I also really liked how the book begins with Leaphorn telling his experience with "the shapeshifter" to his friends, segues into the story, then wraps up with Leaphorn leaving the end of the story in suspense for his friends until another time though we, as the reader, know the ending.

His characters are extremely likable, especially Leaphorn. Though this is the first Hillerman book I've read, it seems that Leaphorn is a recurring main character in his books. The only possible criticism I have is that I thought the way the "shapeshifter" was killed I won't reveal who it is, of course was done so quickly it was almost a little anti-climactic.

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I also wished we learned more about his history, because he was an intriguing villian. I don't think I would have picked this book up on my own, if not for the fact that we needed to read a recent Spur award winner for my Readers' Advisory class. I'm glad I chose this book for and I will be reading more of Hillerman's books in the future.

I also love how I always seem to find books without meaning to where the characters talk about or have degrees in Anthropology. Having a BA in Anthro myself, I always enjoy reading about characters that have that commonality. Jan 12, Sarah rated it it was ok. So, maybe I would've liked this book better if I had read all 17 that came before it. That being said, I found the mystery aspect to be lackluster and not very thrilling. Maybe that's how they all are, but I really wasn't drawn in by any of the characterizations. My favorite aspect of the book is the description of the atmosphere and mystique of the Southwest.

I just love the landscape there and Hillerman does an excellent job transporting me to this place; he does it with such skill that it seem So, maybe I would've liked this book better if I had read all 17 that came before it. I just love the landscape there and Hillerman does an excellent job transporting me to this place; he does it with such skill that it seems foreign and new. He also does a fine job of infusing the people into this landscape, along with their traditions and mythology.

So, after having only read the first one in this series, Lieutenant Joe Leaphorn is now retired and sort of operating outside of the law when he gets involved with a cold case from his youth. This case involves the "Woven Sorrow" rug that was supposedly burned in a fire years before, and has reappeared in a decorating magazine. This then leads to a series of murders that were never solved that go back decades. Then Leaphorn's partner in this case, Bork, turns up dead which then leads him to millionaire Jason Delos and his servant, Tommy Vang. Their relationship is strange and strained to say the least.

This isn't really the type of mystery I usually enjoy, but from what I've heard, the series as a whole is quite enjoyable. If you are a fan of Leaphorn's partner Jim Chee, this is not the book for you, as Chee only makes a few brief appearances. I found the resolution to be a little hasty and there are a few loose ends that I'm still wondering about.

I guess I will just have to use my imagination Jan 07, Tristan MacAvery rated it it was ok. I've generally enjoyed the stories of Joe Leaphorn, now retired by this particular volume. Leaphorn is a traditionalist in many ways, and Hillerman's creation of the character is inextricably interwoven with his the character's experiences. As such, delving into a Leaphorn tale is to explore yet another of the many facets of the policeman's history, his upbringing, his heritage, and the way that his mind works.

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