Kathleen O'Neal Gear and Michael W. Gear
1999. The Visitant. Forge Press
2000. The Summoning God. Forge Press
2001. Bone Walker. Forge Press
If you enjoy mystery novels set in exotic times and places, with a light (well, sometimes not so light) touch of the mystical, youll enjoy the Anasazi Mystery series
by Kathleen and Michael Gear. Youll enjoy the series even more if youre an archaeologist, or if youre interested in what its like to be an archaeologist, particularly a contract archaeologist, particularly in the 21st-century American Southwest. Or if you wonder what it was like to live in the Southwest during the long, difficult period when what archaeologists (quoting the Navajo) refer to as the Anasazi were morphing into todays Puebloan cultures.
The Gears are contract archaeologists, who run a contract archaeology company in Wyoming--Wind River Archaeological Consultants--though I get the impression that theyre not doing much archaeology these days, devoting themselves instead to full-time writing and running a ranch. Theyve published some 23 books between them, eleven of them in their First Americans series--novels set in different parts of prehistoric North America.
The Anasazi Mysteries Series
There are three books in the Anasazi Mysteries series: The Visitant, The Summoning God, and Bone Walker. The lives of a consistent set of characters weave through all three books, together with a large cast of supporting players, many of whom dont last for more than two books before getting knocked off, usually in some gruesome manner. The books are set in two time periods--the present, and the 13th century C.E.
The 13th century was a tough time in the American Southwest--a time of persistent drought conditions, which contributed to if they did not entirely cause the profound social changes of the time. The highly structured society whose central place was at Chaco Canyon--builders of huge multi-story stone apartment towns and villages, linked by arrow-straight roads--had mysteriously fallen generations before, and the remaining Anasazi populations were struggling to survive. By about the end of the century the whole San Juan Basin surrounding Chaco would be devoid of population centers, and the pueblos of modern times--Hopi, Zuni, Acoma--would be developing in more hospitable neighboring areas. There is a good deal of archaeological evidence of malnutrition, and also of violence--sometimes very nasty violence.
A Dismal Situation
The Gears take this dismal situation and run with it, as do their central characters, members of a small band that follows the emergent katsina religion, and is forever fleeing from place to place from their mysterious tormenters. The followers of the katsina seek to re-open a door to the lower world and restore order to life, but they are regarded as heretics by followers of an older religion associated with the Chacoan First People. Someone--at the outset it is mysterious just who it is; later it is simply a mystery how he gets away with it--has a particular dislike for the katsina people, and regularly murders them. In all three books the story revolves around Browser, the katsina peoples war chief, his lieutenant and not-quite lover Catkin, and Stone Ghost, an elder and shaman who plays the detective role, using calm observation and deduction to solve the murder mysteries and outwit the evildoers who stalk them. The evildoers are very evil, seldom content just to murder adults but delighting in disemboweling, disfiguring, dismembering and eating them, while burning children alive en masse. There is archaeological evidence, albeit controversial, that such things actually went on in the Southwest during this period.