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for people who care about the West

A watery mystery in New Mexico

  Even if you haven’t read a mystery novel since the Hardy Boys, give Rudolfo Anaya’s new book, Jemez Spring, a whirl.

All in one day, Sonny Baca, an Albuquerque private investigator, works to solve the governor’s murder at the Jemez Springs Bath House and deactivate a nuclear bomb left in the Valles Caldera to blow up the nearby Los Alamos National Laboratory. Oh, and he also fights his nemesis, a shadowy creature named Raven, who may or may not be behind these nefarious plots.

Layered on top of Baca’s doings, Anaya weaves a story of political intrigue involving water, development and power. Among the cast of characters are: a developer seeking to privatize the waters of the Rio Grande Valley; a band of "Green Indians" plotting a 1680-style revolt against the developer and the politicians in his pocket; and a corrupt Albuquerque mayor.

In the novel, Anaya laments the loss of agricultural lands that have spawned million-dollar adobes. It’s obvious that Anaya’s true love is the Rio Grande: "A river by any name is an instrument of God," he writes. And his novel often reads like a rebuke to those who support unsustainable development: "In the end, the media could cry all it wanted to about the great New Mexico conspiracy to privatize water, and most citizens, not paying attention to the cry, would go on using water as if the tap would never go dry." Here’s wishing that part of the story were as fantastical as the rest of Anaya’s mystery.