The Blessing Way

Bibliographic Information 

Paperback: $24.81 , HarperTorch (2002)


Kindle: $9.99, 304 pages, HarperCollins (2009)

Joe Leaphorn Mysteries: $18, 499 pages, Wings Books (1992)

Audiobook: $17.95, 6,5 hours, Audible


  • ISBN-10: 051707771X
  • ISBN-13: 978-0517077719
  • ASIN: B00XV4MBE0

9780061808357 — Paperback
9780606161749 — Glued Binding
9780914001133 — Hardcover
9780922890095 — Hardcover
9781442079977 — Glued Binding
9780816154319 — Paperback
9780914001140 — Hardcover
9780380399413 — Paperback
9780922890118 — Hardcover
9780816154302 — Hardcover

Rating (VOYA)

4Q, 4P

Readers Annotation

A Navajo Wolf (witch) stalks the reservation in this Joe Leaphorn mystery.


Joe Leaphorn is looking for a Navajo man, Luis Horseman, when his friend Bergen McKee comes to the reservation. The two travel to Shoemaker’s to ask about Horseman. At the shop Leaphorn tells the people it would be better for Horseman to come out so Law and Order didn’t have to go in looking for him. 

McKee has come to the reservation to research Navajo Wolves, witches who may be on the reservation. The wolves are said to have cursed the Tsosie family, Horseman’s mother’s family. 

Horseman’s body is found on the side of the road.  It looks like he was drunk and for caught in a cave- in, but the medical examiner said the was no alcohol in his blood and he suffocated. 

McKee leaves Leaphorn to meet with his friend and colleague Canfield to research. They camp in a canyon. The next day McKee goes to meet with Leaphorn to discuss the case. Leaphorn has learned that the Tsosie family are going to have an Enemy Way ceremony. He decides to go and talk with Horseman’s family. McKee goes back to his campsite. 

When McKee gets back to the site he finds Canfield missing. The camper and Canfield’s truck are gone.  There is a note in their tent saying he went to get a Navajo help signed John.  Canfield’s first name is Jeremy.  McKee is then on high alert and hides in the shadows.  Someone is stalking him in the night. 

Meanwhile,  Leaphorn goes to the Enemy Way ceremony and speaks with the shaman, who concludes that while Leaphorn may know the Navajo way he does not believe it.  Leaphorn learns that Billy Nez (Horseman’s brother) has tracked the “witch.” Billy provided the “scalp” of the witch to be used in the ceremony, a hat.  Leaphorn realizes the heat belongs to the big Navajo that was at Shoemaker’s the other day. 

The next day,  McKee waits for Canfield’s assistant to come so that they can go get help.  He fell during the night,  injuring himself and giving himself a bedraggled appearance.  When the assistant Ellen Leon shows up he tries to convince her to leave and get help,  but his appearance makes her suspicious and afraid and thus they get caught by the big Navajo after finding Canfield’s body. 

The big Navajo wants McKee to write a letter saying he and Canfield are moving their camp. McKee cannot write the letter because he damaged his hand. The big Navajo moves them to the Anasazi ruins. The big Navajo’s partner Eddie meets them at the ruins.

Leaphorn thinks he’s figured out the case and sets about tracking the big Navajo’s truck. Some things don’t add up to his theory and he must reconsider. 

McKee tries to think of how to escape. He finds an escape tunnel out of the hole he and Ellen have been put in.  He plans abs eventually takes out Eddie. Ellen had been shot so he tries to find help but the big Navajo finds him first and shoots him. McKee hides under a tree and fashions a means to fight back.  He ends up killing the big Navajo. He drags himself to the man in the desert,  but the man was part of the crime ring. Luckily Leaphorn arrives to arrest the man,  who then committed suicide. 


I liked this book. Its an easy and interesting read. I don’t feel like I got a good feel for Joe Leaphorn, so I might pick up the next book in the series. 


Western, Mystery


Coyote Wind by Peter Bowen

The Shaman Sings by James D Doss


Mysteries set in modern Navajo culture. Characters steeped in a culture unfamiliar to most readers.

Book Discussion Questions and Ideas

Discuss Navajo beliefs and the impact of the white man on their culture. 

What do we think about the Enemy Way ceremony? 

Would Horseman have been safe if Leaphorn hadn’t talked to the big Navajo? 

Talk about the idea of the Navajo Wolf. 

Author’s website

Harper Collins site for Tony Hillerman






Why I Chose It

I wanted a Western and I loved the idea of having it set in Native culture. It was also a MUST READ in Genreflecting.

Other Information


Death Comes for the Archbishop

Bibliographic Information 

Paperback: 297 pages, Published by Vintage (1990), $7.91

Hardcover: 336 pages, Everyman’s Library (1992), $12.39

Kindle: $2.99

9780679728894 — Paperback
9780679600503 — Hardcover
9780940450523 — Hardcover
9781844083725 — Paperback
9780679413196 — Hardcover
9781742445335 — Paperback
9780783896342 — Hardcover
9780606015516 — Glued Binding
9780899669786 — Hardcover
9780812493528 — Glued Binding
9781417904235 — Paperback
9780679422532 — Hardcover
9781449530426 — Paperback
9780394421544 — Hardcover
9781501033247 — Paperback
9781427073952 — Paperback
9781427073945 — Paperback
9781427073969 — Paperback
9781536807936 — Paperback
9780848804480 — Hardcover
9781427073938 — Paperback
9781427073921 — Paperback
9781427073976 — Paperback
9781427074478 — Paperback
9781427073983 — Paperback
9780553064162 — Paperback
9780896215061 — Hardcover

Rating (VOYA)

I’m giving this book a 5Q for Quality. This book is incredibly well written. Its stark style and narative echo its theme. There isn’t really a flaw in the way its written.

I give this book a 3P for Popularity because this will be a hard book to sell, but could appeal to readers. This book is a niche book that will appeal to Christian readers and Western readers, however, its stark style could be off putting.It would take some convincing, but I think readers might not regret the decision to pick it up.

Readers Annotation

A catholic bishop and priest come to the new territory New Mexico to establish a new diocese.


French Bishop Jean Marie Latour and vicar Joseph Vaillant are assigned to the new territory of New Mexico to establish a new diocese for the Roman Catholic Church and straighten out the existing priests. The story encompasses many different points in their lives, but does not dwell for long on any time.

The Bishop travels alone to the new territory but gets lost in the desert. He stumbles upon a town, where the villagers help him recover before pointing him in the direction of  Sante Fe. Once he reaches Sante Fe the priest there does not recognize him as his Bishop. This forces the Bishop to travel to Mexico to get his papers.

Once he returns to Sante Fe, his vicar has already arrived and started to make connections to the people of the town. They start to weed out the priests who are not following the guidelines of their faith or who are taking advantage of their people.

The two travel over the land covered in the territory and start to establish a diocese. The vicar Vaillant spends some time in Albuquerque taming the people there.

They save a woman from her husband who has murdered several travelers who have stayed in his home and has beaten his wife. They work to save another woman’s inheritance from being stolen by her husband’s brothers by convincing her to state her true age to the court. Vicar Vaillant is sent to Colorado and fund-raises money to get supplies for the trip.

The Vicar eventually becomes a Bishop himself, but ends up collecting a lot of debt and is called to Rome to answer for it before his death. The Bishop dies in his room at the church he built.


I don’t have many thoughts on this book. This sentiment comes from a combination of lack of connection, stark writing, and a head cold. There was no action, or real interest in the story. There is an emptiness to the story, a calmness. There are no real conflicts (other than the dispute over an inheritance and two priests who break away from the church). There wasn’t much of a plot other than the Bishop establishing and building his diocese.

The two main characters the Bishop and the Vicar are quite three dimensional. We get most of the story through the Bishop’s point of view, and he is a logical and calm man. He knows what he needs to do, and while he’s not the best with people or fund-raising, his Vicar is his foil. The Vicar is loud and passionate and is not afraid to ask for money. They are good friends and work well together. The few other characters we see don’t have much depth, but their actions are well founded in their circumstances.

The setting is the star of this story. Early New Mexico is barren and at times harsh. Cather’s writing helps to establish the feel of the setting and her descriptions bring it to life.

Personally, I wasn’t a big fan of the book. I loved the sense of calm I had while reading it, but there wasn’t much to it (which was probably the point) I also didn’t enjoy the overt Catholicism.

I think this would work for Christian readers of the Catholic variety and certain Western readers. This book has a totally different appeal and feel than most of both of those genres. However, it would be a good experience to try. Historical readers might enjoy the insight into early New Mexico.

I’d say a flaw of this book is the lack of action, but that is probably the point of the book. In some ways I feel like it skipped over all the interesting parts. How did the Bishop get the money to build his church? How did it get built? How did the Bishop deal with the fracture in his church when the two Mexican priests split with the diocese? What was the Vicars life like in Colorado other than “hard?” But while I have all these questions about what I perceive as interesting points in the story that were almost entirely skipped, that might just be the point of the book.

Another title might be “The Bishop of New Mexico” since his death is merely the end of the book.


Christian Historical Fiction


A unique look at a unique situation in a historical setting. What really sets is apart is the barren and simple style it is written in.


Lila by Marilynne Robinson

The Brethern  by Beverly Lewis

Shades of Blue by Karen Kingsbury

Book Discussion Questions and Ideas

Talk about the writing style: significance, good for story?

Should Bishop Latour have kept bringing in French priests to his diocese?

Are the portrayals of the people the Bishop and Vicar encounter accurate?

Author’s website  – The Willa Cather Archive


Must Read in Genreflecting.

Time’s All Time 100 Novels 1923-2005 

#61 The Modern Library Board’s list of 100 Best Novels




Why I Chose It

I chose this book because it was a Christian Fiction book, a Western and Historical at the same time. It was also a Must Read in Genreflecting which seemed like a good idea to read.

Other Information