cover image Zia Summer

Zia Summer

Rudolfo A. Anaya. Warner Books, $21.95 (386pp) ISBN 978-0-446-51843-7

Called a founding father of Chicano literature in English, the author of Bless Me, Ultima and Alburquerque tries his hand at detective fiction but continues to shine brightest with his trademark alchemy: blending Spanish, Mexican and Indian cultures to evoke the distinctively fecund spiritual terrain of his part of the Southwest. Here Sonny Baca, a 30-year-old fledgling PI, investigates the murder of his prima, Gloria Dominic, the cousin who many years before had introduced him to love. Gloria's husband is worried most about the effect of the gruesome death (Gloria's body is found drained of blood, with a zia sun sign carved on her stomach) on his mayoral campaign in Albuquerque. Sonny believes Gloria's spirit calls to him for vengeance and pursues the case throughout New Mexico's South Valley, from the cocktail-party circuit of the arts community and the company of monied business developers to an assemblage of witches in an environmentalist commune in the mountains. Although the narrative pace is often bumbling, Anaya blends elements of nuclear waste-management and ancient tradition with considerable credibility and offers a memorable cast of locals. But best here is Sonny's convincing attachment to the land and the traditions that have shaped him. (June)