Literary Techniques

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Last Updated on May 6, 2015, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 146

In terms of form, Sacred Clowns continues Hillerman's commitment to the realistic detective genre. The book traces Chee and Leaphorn's attempts to solve two murders that at first seem unconnected, a shop teacher at a Catholic high school and a nonresident member of Tano Pueblo. While the plot follows the...

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In terms of form, Sacred Clowns continues Hillerman's commitment to the realistic detective genre. The book traces Chee and Leaphorn's attempts to solve two murders that at first seem unconnected, a shop teacher at a Catholic high school and a nonresident member of Tano Pueblo. While the plot follows the convention of the murder mystery, Hillerman gives the novel depth through his use of Southwestern settings. Native American cultures, and history. The key to the murder is Tano's Lincoln Cane, one of a series of ceremonial mahogany and silver canes that Abraham Lincoln gave to each pueblo during the Civil War to encourage the tribes to remain neutral. Hillerman manages to weave into his narrative the historical background of the cane — and its significance to contemporary Pueblo life — while at the same time using the cane as a convincing plot device to link the two victims.

Literary Precedents

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Last Updated on May 6, 2015, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 133

The literary precedents for Sacred Clowns are American realism, the detective novel, and the American local color tradition. Hillerman continues his realistic portrayal of Chee and Leaphorn as they solve the two murders. Since the murders take place in different jurisdictions, Hillerman suggests something of the complexity of law enforcement in Indian Country as the two policemen interact with other law enforcement agencies. His tightly-written style owes much to novelists such as Hemingway and the hard-boiled school of mystery writers, including Raymond Chandler. But Hillerman often enhances the detective genre with his emphasis on local color. He attempts to present the native peoples of the region sometimes humorously, always sympathetically, to give his readers a sense of the Native Americans' humanity. His novels render ethnographic detail as accurately as do many scholarly texts.

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