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The Anasazi Mysteries

Kathleen O'Neal Gear and W. Michael Gear

About.com Rating 4.5 Star Rating
User Rating 3 Star Rating (1 Review)


The Visitant

The Visitant

Forge Press
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, you’ll enjoy the Anasazi Mystery series by Kathleen and Michael Gear. You’ll enjoy the series even more if you’re an archaeologist, or if you’re interested in what it’s 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 today’s 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 they’re not doing much archaeology these days, devoting themselves instead to full-time writing and running a ranch. They’ve 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 don’t 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 people’s 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.

User Reviews

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 3 out of 5
Well-Written, But Too Disturbing, Member toddhelmkamp

I have only read the first book in the series (""The Visitant""), so I can only speak for this one. Very gripping, very well-written, and from what I can tell accurate. However, I found the gruesome nature of the ""bad guys"" and the graphic depictions of the tortures inflicted on the helpless to be very off-putting. But, I hate horror movies for the exact same reasons. So if you don't mind that stuff, then this is very worth the read. If it wasn't for that, I would have given the book 5 stars.

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