Putting the detectives he had developed in independent series together, Hillerman created a popular combination. Their first collaboration in Skinwalkers won a spot for Hillerman on the 1986 best-seller lists. Publication in 1988 of A Thief of Time made Leaphorn and Chee instrumental to Hillerman’s deepening portrayal of Native American life through a plot that leads them into investigations of archaeological traces of the Anasazi past of Arizona and New Mexico and explores the tensions in the present culture of the Dinetah.
Hillerman had good reason to feel content with his decision to pair his two characters. After three novels in which he presented Leaphorn alone as the presiding detective, and three in which Chee was the dominant sleuth, Hillerman had had ample opportunity to provide each with a singular personality, an individual background, and a distinctive approach to police procedures. Their individual differences and their independent development made it improbable for them to merge into a flawless super detection team, and impossible that they could fit into the conventional mold of a master detective and sidekick. Instead of duplicating a convention of the detective fiction genre, Leaphorn and Chee in combination brought intriguing complexity to Hillerman’s narratives. Working on cases that at first are seemingly unrelated, they give their audience two lines, not just one line, of investigation to follow vicariously with the detectives, and two credible and informative points of