Cover image for Hunting badger
Hunting badger
Hillerman, Tony.
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First large print edition.
Publication Information:
New York, N.Y. : HarperLargePrint, 1999.
Physical Description:
243 pages (large print) ; 24 cm
Three men stage a predawn raid on the Ute tribe's gambling casino. They kill one policeman, wound another and disappear into the maze of canyons on the Utah-Arizona border. Jim Chee and Joe Leaphorn are called in to help with the investigation.
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X Adult Large Print Mystery/Suspense

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Navajo crimebusters Leaphom and Chee are back together on a case, and at odds with the FBI over a backcountry manhunt in this latest thrilling addition to Tony Hillerman's best-selling series.

In 1998 three heavily armed "survivalists" came out of the Four Corners canyons in a stolen truck. They murdered a policeman, had a shootout with pursuers, and then vanished -- eluding a manhunt that eventually involved hundreds of officers from more than twenty federal and state agencies. The crime and the bungled FBI investigation left behind a web of mysteries: Why did one of the bandits kill himself? How did the others escape? Why has no one in this impoverished area claimed the huge reward the government still offers? Most puzzling of all, what crime were they en route to commit when Officer Dale Claxton stopped them -- and paid for his bravery with his life?

Tony Hillerman assigns these real puzzles to his fictional Navajo Tribal Police officers -- Sergeant Jim Chee and retired Lieutenant Joe Leaphorn. The time is now, and the memory of the mishandled manhunt of 1998 is still painfully fresh. Three men stage a predawn raid on the Ute tribe's gambling casino. They kill one policeman, wound another, and disappear in the maze of canyons on the Utah-Arizona border. The FBI takes over the investigation, and agents swarm in with their helicopters, their high-tech equipment, and a theory of the crime that makes a wounded deputy sheriff a suspect. This development calls Chee in from his vacation, and a request for a favor draws in Leaphorn. Chee finds a fatal flaw in the federal theory, and Leaphorn sees an intriguing pattern connecting this crime with the exploits of a legendary Ute hero-bandit.

Tightly plotted and beautifully written, Hunting Badger proves once again that Tony Hillerman is a master storyteller.

Author Notes

Tony Hillerman was born in Sacred Heart, Oklahoma on May 27, 1925. During World War II, he enlisted in the Army and was awarded the Silver Star, the Bronze Star and the Purple Heart after being severely injured during a raid behind German lines. He received a bachelor's degree from the University of Oklahoma in 1948.

From 1948 to 1962, he covered crime and politics for newspapers in Texas, Oklahoma, and New Mexico, eventually working his way up to the position of editor of the Santa Fe New Mexican. He taught at the University of Mexico and went on to chair the journalism department for more than 20 years. He retired in 1985.

His first novel, The Blessing Way, was published in 1971. During his lifetime, he wrote 29 books, including the popular 18-book mystery series featuring Navajo police officers Jim Chee and Joe Leaphorn, two non-series novels, two children's books, and nonfiction works. He received numerous awards during his lifetime including the Edgar Allan Poe Award for Best Mystery Novel for Dance Hall of the Dead in 1974, the Western Writers of America's Golden Spur Award for Skinwalkers in 1987, the Mystery Writers of America's Grand Master Award in 1991, the Navajo tribe's Special Friend Award, France 's Grand Prix de Litterature Policiere, the 2002 Malice Domestic Lifetime Achievement Award, the Agatha Award for Best Nonfiction Book for Seldom Disappointed, and the Wister Award for Lifetime achievement in 2008. He died from pulmonary failure on October 26, 2008 at the age of 83.

(Bowker Author Biography)

Reviews 3

Booklist Review

Hillerman returns to top form in this tale of a casino robbery in the Four Corners region of New Mexico, Arizona, Utah, and Colorado. When the perps, who killed one guard and wounded another in the course of the robbery, vanish into one of the remote canyons of the region, tribal police are reminded of a similar case in 1998 in which an FBI-led manhunt was utterly bungled. Drawing on that real-life event, Hillerman builds a fine thriller from his traditional ingredients: Navajo lore, stunning natural landscapes, and the compelling personalities of his two tribal-cop heroes, Joe Leaphorn and Jim Chee. Now retired, Leaphorn is drawn into the case when he notices a striking parallel to a Ute legend about a notorious thief who could disappear in a canyon only to reappear atop a mesa. With Chee feeding him information from the investigation, Leaphorn begins to formulate a theory. Along the way, we get glimpses into the evolving personal lives of both cops--Chee has ended one relationship and is on the verge of beginning another, while Leaphorn is still dealing with his wife's death. As with other long-running series, this one has fluctuated a bit in recent years between maintaining comfortable rhythms and slipping into a tired sameness. The rhythm is back this time, and all is well in Navajo country. --Bill Ott

Publisher's Weekly Review

Picking up a new Hillerman book has the high comfort level of revisiting a favorite old Western hotel like the Bishop's Lodge in Santa Fe or the Ahwani at YosemiteÄthe accommodations will always be first class and the scenery spectacular. Not that Hillerman ignores the passage of time: his two Navajo cops, Jim Chee and Joe Leaphorn, age and change as we all do. There's a moment in the novel when Chee meets with his retired former boss at the Anasazi Inn dining room in Farmington, N. Mex. "He had looked right past the corner table and the stocky old duffer sitting there with a plump middle-aged woman without recognizing Joe Leaphorn.... He had seen the Legendary Lieutenant in civilian attire before, but the image he carried in his mind was of Leaphorn in uniform." As for the prickly Sergeant Chee, he has to contend with physical problems as well as with the end of one romance and the beginning of anotherÄnot to mention the very real possibility of being picked off by a sniper during the search for the men who robbed a casino owned by the Ute tribe. In a rare author's note, Hillerman talks about an actual 1998 case in which the FBI turned the killing of a Colorado police officer into a gigantic fiasco. The shadow of that failed investigation hangs over the search in this book, leading to many anti-FBI jibes ("If the Federal Bureau of Ineptitude says it, it must be true," another retired cop tells Leaphorn). As usual in recent Hillerman books, the action goes on mostly inside the minds of his two lead characters. But there is one splendid helicopter ride into Gothic Creek Canyon that should speed up the calmest heart, several new insights into the mysteries of Navajo culture and a story with enough twists and surprises to make readers glad they checked in. Major ad/promo; 15-city TV satellite tour; simultaneous HarperAudio. (Nov.) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved

Library Journal Review

As the FBI bungles its way through a manhunt near the Navajo Reservation (in a scenario based on actual events), Hillerman stalwarts Jim Chee and Joe Leaphorn take charge from the sidelines. (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.



Hunting Badger Chapter One Deputy Sheriff Teddy Bai had been leaning on the doorframe looking out at the night about three minutes or so before he became aware that Cap Stoner was watching him. "Just getting some air," Bai said. "Too damn much cigarette smoke in there." "You're edgy tonight," Cap said, moving up to stand in the doorway beside him. "You young single fellas ain't supposed to have anything worrying you." "I don't," Teddy said. "Except maybe staying single," Cap said. "There's that." "Not with me," Teddy said, and looked at Cap to see if he could read anything in the old man's expression. But Cap was looking out into the Ute Casino's parking lot, showing only the left side of his face, with its brush of white mustache, short-cropped white hair and the puckered scar left along the cheekbone when, as Cap told it, a woman he was arresting for Driving While Intoxicated fished a pistol out of her purse and shot him. That had been about forty years ago, when Stoner had been with the New Mexico State Police only a couple of years and had not yet learned that survival required skepticism about all his fellow humans. Now Stoner was a former captain, augmenting his retirement pay as a rent-a-cop security director at the Southern Ute gambling establishment -- just as Teddy was doing on his off-duty nights. "What'd ya tell that noisy drunk at the blackjack table?" "Just the usual," Teddy said. "Calm down or he'd have to leave." Cap didn't comment. He stared out into the night. "Saw some lightning," he said, pointing. "Just barely. Must be way out there over Utah. Time for it, too." "Yeah," Teddy said, wanting Cap to go away. "Time for the monsoons to start," Cap said. "The thirteenth, isn't it? I'm surprised so many people are out here trying their luck on Friday the thirteenth." Teddy nodded, providing no fodder to extend this conversation. But Cap didn't need any. "But then it's payday. They got to get rid of all that money in their pay envelopes." Cap looked at his watch. "Three-thirty-three," he announced. "Almost time for the truck to get here to haul off the loot to the bank." And, Teddy thought, a few minutes past the time when a little blue Ford Escort was supposed to have arrived in the west lot. "Well," he said, "I'll go prowl around the parking areas. Scare off the thieves." Teddy found neither thieves nor a little blue Escort in the west lot. When he looked back at the employees only doorway, Cap was no longer there. A few minutes late. A thousand reasons that could happen. No big deal. He enjoyed the clean air, the predawn high-country chill, the occasional lightning over the mountains. He walked out of the lighted area to check his memory of the midsummer starscape. Most of the constellations were where he remembered they should be. He could recall their American names, and some of the names his Navajo grandmother had taught him, but only two of the names he'd wheedled out of his Kiowa-Comanche father. Now was that moment his grandmother called the "deep dark time," but the late-rising moon was causing a faint glow outlining the shape of Sleeping Ute Mountain. He heard the sound of laughter from somewhere. A car door slammed. Then another. Two vehicles pulled out of the east lot, heading for the exit. Coyotes began a conversation of yips and yodels among the pinons in the hills behind the casino. The sound of a truck gearing down came from the highway below. A pickup pulled into the employees only lot, parked, produced the clattering sound of something being unloaded. Teddy pushed the illumination button on his Timex. Three-forty-six. Now the little blue car was late enough to make him wonder a little. A man wearing what looked like coveralls emerged into the light carrying an extension ladder. He placed it against the casino wall, trotted up it to the roof. "Now what's that about?" Teddy said, half-aloud. Probably an electrician. Probably something wrong with the air-conditioning. "Hey," he shouted, and started toward the ladder. Another pickup pulled into the employee lot--this one a big oversize-cab job. Doors opened. Two men emerged. National Guard soldiers apparently, dressed in their fatigues. Carrying what? They were walking fast toward the EMPLOYEES ONLY door. But that door had no outside knob. It was the accounting room, opened only from the inside and only by guys as important as Cap Stoner. Stoner was coming out of the side entrance now. He pointed at the roof, shouted, "Who's that up there? What the hell--" "Hey," Teddy yelled, trotting toward the two men, unsnapping the flap on his holster. "What's --" Both men stopped. Teddy saw muzzle flashes, saw Cap Stoner fall backward, sprawled on the pavement. The men spun toward him, swinging their weapons. He was fumbling with his pistol when the first bullets struck him. Hunting Badger . Copyright © by Tony Hillerman. Reprinted by permission of HarperCollins Publishers, Inc. All rights reserved. Available now wherever books are sold. Excerpted from Hunting Badger by Tony Hillerman All rights reserved by the original copyright owners. Excerpts are provided for display purposes only and may not be reproduced, reprinted or distributed without the written permission of the publisher.