Big trouble in Talon Town, the name given by the archaeologically correct Gears (People of the Lightning, 1995, etc.) to a political and cultural center of the 12th-century Anasazi people in what is now New Mexico. Here, the dire careers of two ruthless rulers spawn murders and betrayals while mystery burgeons and romance flutters. This pounding-moccasin's saga is similar to the Gears' other books, in which the nobly inclined and spiritually attuned escape from evil heavies in high places. In this latest, Crow Beard, the absolute ruler of the Straight People (the Anasazi), is dying. Many years before, he had ordered the murder of a young woman of the Mogollon people, taken in a raid and enslaved. The court's holy man, the ""Sunwatcher"" Sternlight, is forced to do the deed. What Crow Beard doesn't know is that Sternlight allowed the girl's baby to live, with (eventually) important ramifications for all. The baby had been given to a couple of ""Made People"" (as opposed to the elite ""First People""), who raised her with their son. A horrible death awaits the boy and his father, while the girl, Cornsilk, now 14, flees for her life. She will eventually team up with Poor Singer, who's being whomped into spiritual shape as a disciple of a powerful shaman. Finally, all principals will cluster in Talon Town, where Crow Beard's nasty son Snake Head is plotting the death of his mother Night Sun, whom he suspects of bearing a child by the Warrior Chief Ironwood (he's on target there) and planning a secret alliance with the chief of the Mogolons, whose daughter was Sternlight's victim. Again, the Gears' people are anything but silent as they mull over their multiplying predicaments with expository earnestness. Still, the grue-soaked action, mystic journeying, and sentiment churn on efficiently against some rather nice scenery. More of the same, but with respectable anthropological underpinnings.