During the course of the investigation that unfolds in Dance Hall of the Dead, no less than six law enforcement agencies play a role. Three of these made up of local and tribal authorities, while the other three are federal institutions. The first officers to get involved are Zuni Police Chief Ed Pasquaanti and Lieutenant Joe Leaphorn. Leaphorn is a Najavo detective who has both unsurpassed tracking skills and in-depth knowledge of Najavo traditions. Leaphorn’s motive is to protect George Bowlegs, who many in the community believe to be the murderer. Leaphorn, on the other hand, is convinced that Bowlegs is likely to be the next victim.
The FBI later takes control of the investigation, because they believe that the case is related to illegal drug smuggling. Representatives of the federal drug enforcement agency show up, as well as tribal police, state police, tribal police, and elders. Ultimately, however, it is Joe Leaphorn and other members of the Zuni tribal police who get to the bottom of the case. Specifically, it is Joe himself who realizes in a moment of clarity that Professor Reynolds was the killer. He chooses to leave the Zuni people themselves to exact justice and revenge in a manner that they see fit.