In this fifth installment of the bestselling indigenous crime series, retired Tribal Police officer Joe Leaphorn finds himself knee-deep in a perplexing case involving a priceless Navajo artifact. While the veteran detective is busy working to untangle his strange case, an investigation by his former colleague Jim Chee and Officer Bernie Manuelito begins to merge with his, offering an unexpected opportunity that opens a new chapter in Bernie's life.
[Hillerman's] writing has moved to another level this time out, and a solid case could be made that it’s her best to date. While her characters are familiar old friends to devoted readers, they once again appear in the pages of this new offering as rich and well-developed figures ... A staple of Hillerman procedurals is the use of multiple plot threads that come together 'like weft and warp,' and the author again succeeds in launching Leaphorn, Bernie, and Chee in separate directions that ultimately overlap either in case details or in theme ... While characterization and plot development are strengths, perhaps Anne Hillerman’s finest achievement in The Tale Teller is the manner in which she integrates the setting of the novel into her work ... The Tale Teller is more than just a police procedural set in the Southwest, it’s a reading experience not to be missed. Anne Hillerman has reached a new level of storytelling in this one, and she deserves recognition as one of the finest mystery authors currently working in the genre.
...the strong kinship ties among the characters’ Navajo community, the odd crimes that can happen there, and the lengths desperate people will go to for survival ... These features, along with the crime stories, will make the book a natural hit with Hillerman’s many fans; it’s also a good choice for readers who are interested in fiction touching on today’s social issues—in this case, controversies surrounding museum artifacts of questionable provenance.
...[a] laconic fifth Leaphorn, Chee, and Manuelito novel ... Series fans not looking for dramatic momentum or a gripping plot will enjoy catching up with familiar characters, but predictability and lackluster prose mar this installment.