Book two in the Anasazi Mysteries series, The Summoning God is the sequel to The Visitant, in which archaeologist-authors Kathleen O'Neal Gear and W. Michael Gear introduced readers to murder, mayhem, and the myriad details of life in a 13th-century Native American pueblo. In both novels, the narrative arcs between the present and the past, drawing aside the seemingly thin veil of time that separates them. Here, as archaeologists Dusty Stewart and Maureen Cole sift through an ancient Anasazi kiva, attempting to understand the circumstances that could have led to the presence of 33 charred children's bodies in the ceremonial chamber, we also see the members of the pueblo as they move toward the terrible destruction so carefully unearthed by Stewart and Cole. This narrative device isn't revolutionary, but it is clever: the demands of classic mystery plotting (we have a corpse, but who committed the crime?) are fulfilled, while the reader lives simultaneously in the worlds of evidence creation and deduction.
The Anasazi characters will be familiar to readers of The Visitant: warriors Browser and Catkin, holy men Springbank and Stone Ghost, and the witch Two Hearts continue to move silently through the sand and sagebrush, circling through a world marked by warring religions and vanishing resources. When Browser and Catkin find a mutilated old woman surrounded by the skulls of her clan, they must summon all their courage to combat what surely must be witchcraft--or is it? Although the narrative founders at times in a sea of murkily presented myth, the characters are vibrantly drawn (though to watch an Anasazi holy man conduct an autopsy in a manner that would do Kay Scarpetta proud is one of several discordant anachronisms).
The Summoning God, like its predecessor, renders the lives and habits of the Anasazi in compelling detail: we learn that they used blazing star petals for perfume and that their ceremonial purification rites included cornmeal and ground seashells. Though the tenacity with which the authors seek to hammer home a situational equivalency between modern life and the 13th century is sometimes painfully heavy-handed, the evocation of daily life never is. Readers might wish to acknowledge that overutilization of resources, a thirst for territory, and a propensity toward holy wars are indeed threads that bind us to the Anasazi--then ignore the lectures and settle into the story. --Kelly Flynn
--This text refers to the Hardcover edition.