Continuing their Anasazi series (The Visitant, 1999, etc.), the Gears bury New Mexico archaeologist Dale Emerson Robertson upside down in a Chaco Canyon kiva pit, slice off the soles of his feet, drill a hole in his head so his soul can be sucked out, and twine him up in a hoop of yucca. Since the canyon is federal parkland, the FBI steps in, but Dale’s adopted son Dusty insists his death was a ritual murder that will never be solved by White Man reasoning. Owls hoot, dead souls whisper, and symbols of el basilisco appear, along with smarmy folk from Dale’s past, including the mother who abandoned Dusty when he was only six and one of her ex-husbands. Meanwhile, in alternating chapters describing life at the Chaco site 800 years ago, the Made people (led by elder Stone Ghost and his nephew Browser), the First People (loyal to evil Two Hearts and the stunning Shadow), and the White Moccasins (assassins without pay) are clubbing each other to death and desperately seeking a soul-protecting turquoise wolf amulet. Browser, who becomes an ace tracker, military tactician, and diplomat, finds love, vanquishes two witches, and brings peace. Centuries later, Dusty, after absorbing Dale’s journals, heeding his friend Magpie’s visions, and being deterred from vengeance by the estimable anthropologist Maureen Cole, faces down present-day “Wolf Witch” murderer Kwewur in a wrap-up that loosely ties together ancient and modern events.
A so-so mystery, but readers will wish they could book one of those Anasazi cliffhouses for a night of between-worlds mysticism and wake up to one of Dusty’s breakfasts.