Book Review: Jemez Spring, Book #4 in the Sonny Baca Mystery Quartet by Rudolfo Anaya

by DerdriuMarriner

Jemez Spring, Book #4 in the Sonny Baca Mystery Quartet by Rudolfo Anaya, contemplates New Mexicans sorting gubernatorial deaths in Jemez Springs and nuclear bombs near Los Alamos.

Jemez Spring happens in springtime at Jemez Springs

Jemez Spring accords closure as the final title in the Sonny Baca Mystery Quartet written by Rudolfo Alfonso Anaya (born October 30, 1937), as:
• the forty-seventh state’s anthologist, counselor, editor, essayist, folklorist, historian, mythologist, novelist, storyteller;
• the Land of Enchantment’s living treasure; and
• the University of New Mexico’s emeritus literature professor.

It becomes as Book #4 the conclusive successor to:
• Book #1, Zia Summer;
• Book #2, Rio Grande Fall; and
• Book #3, Shaman Winter.

This final, fourth installment culminates the detective novel series’ healing cycle of:
• exsanguination cured with earth absorbing Gloria’s blood;
• home invasions healed with Cristina’s and Rita’s rescue; and
• infanticide remediated with Rita’s and Sonny’s unborn twins populating the latter’s nagual (guardian animal) realms.

Pueblo of Jemez (pronounced "Hay-mess" or traditionally as "He-mish") is the only location where Towa is spoken; traditional law prohibits written forms of the language.

Jemez Pueblo, Sandoval County, north central New Mexico
Jemez Pueblo, Sandoval County, north central New Mexico

Jemez Spring indicates spring's verification as Mourning Cloaks


Private detective Manuel López doubts Sonny’s personal commitments to and professional longevity in private investigative work because of:

  • Sonny’s inexperience with firearms, as evidenced in his preferring to keep great-grandfather Elfego Francisco Baca’s .45-caliber single-action Colt unloaded; and
  • Sonny’s tendency from his previous job description as Valley High School literature teacher to subject events to interpretations and re-interpretations over and over again.

Sonny nevertheless exercises the nimble, observational, and personal skills which are so vital to successful police detective and private investigative work. He finds himself:

  • liked by men for his confidence and conversation; and
  • loved by women for his gallantry and gorgeousness.

Only Raven and his coerced or complicit associates go toward Sonny angrily or violently. 


Concerns about a nuclear bomb left in Valles Caldera contribute to suspense in "Jemez Spring," last installment in Sonny Baca quartet by Rudolfo Anaya ~

Cerro la Jara, approximately 246-feet (75-meter)-high forested rhyolite lava dome in Valle Grande, largest meadow in the Valles Caldera National Preserve in Jemez Mountains
Sandoval County, north central New Mexico
Sandoval County, north central New Mexico

Jemez Spring juxtaposes one nuclear bomb, two murders


Sonny has his case load lightened by closing Raven’s rap-sheets and missing private eye credential renewal dates. In the first instance, Raven is over-confident enough to:

  • have a nuclear bomb left in Valles Caldera for detonation near Los Alamos National Laboratories;
  • identify the bomb’s dismantling code, #1776;
  • judge self-professed Zia sun queen Tamara Dubronsky adept at spiritual consciousness awakeners linked to the seven-step spinal tree from the back’s base to the head’s crown;  
  • kill New York-based artist Naomi with a gunshot wound to the chest; and
  • wrestle with Naomi’s lover Bear in the churning waters under the Barelas Bridge at 6:00 p.m.

Sonny joins Lorenza, Rita, and Tamara in considering Raven’s death by drowning a provisional victory. 


In "Jemez Spring," Sonny Baca's nemesis drowns in the Rio Grande at Barelas, historic neighborhood south of downtown Albuquerque defined by Rio Grande and railroad yards:

vaulted wooden and steel ceilings with green and yellow stained glass windows of The Yards, formerly Atchison, Topeka, and Santa Fe Rail Yards complex, now site of popular markets and shops.
south of downtown Albuquerque
south of downtown Albuquerque

Jemez Spring knows that tlahuelpuchi (super-witches) ultimately lose


The storyline keeps its momentum through cultural, geo-historical, philosophical, and spiritual information from Anglo, Chicano, Hispanic, Hopi, Pueblo, and Tlaxcalan customs. It juxtaposes atomic waste and environmental degradation with such plot intricacies as Frank Dominic, Gloria’s widower and Sonny’s ex-cousin-in-law, challenging centuries-old resource claims and privatizing water rights against Albuquerque’s long-standing residents and for Northeast Heights’ and West Mesa’s super-developers. So Jemez Spring keeps Book #4 readers culturally enriched, educationally entertained, geo-historically enthralled throughout nuclear waste-buried, multiculture-cherished, unidentified flying object-documented landscapes where tradition and water are precious, thanks to:

  • Rudolfo Anaya, author;
  • Centaur 13/15 body type;
  • Decotura display type; and
  • Kathleen Sparkes, book and jacket designer, jacket artist, type composer; and
  • University of New Mexico Press, publisher.


Jemez Spring by Rudolfo Anaya ~ available via Amazon

In a race against the clock Sonny Baca encounters ghosts and sorcerers, beautiful women and environmental activists, and developers and politicians who are quarreling over the state's most precious resource, its water.
Rudolfo Anaya writings



My special thanks to:

  • Talented artists and photographers/concerned organizations who make their fine images available on the Internet;
  • Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University for superior on-campus and on-line resources.


Chicoma Mountain: highest point in Jemez Mountains, with elevation of 11,561 feet (3,524 meters) and exceptionally high tree line, almost to summit

view from north
view from north

Sources Consulted


Anaya, Rudolfo. 2005. Jemez Spring. Albuquerque, NM: University of New Mexico Press. 


soda dam on Jemez Creek near Jemez Springs: natural dam created by buildup of mineral deposits from underground hot springs

Santa Fe National Forest, north central New Mexico
Santa Fe National Forest, north central New Mexico
the end which is also the beginning
the end which is also the beginning

Natural Hot Spring Flowing Down a Rocky Slope High in the Jemez Mountains ~ photographic print ~ available via AllPosters

Natural Hot Spring Flowing Down a Rocky Slope High in the Jemez Mountains

Me and my purrfectly purrfect Maine coon kittycat, Augusta "Gusty" Sunshine

Gusty and I thank you for reading this article and hope that our product selection interests you; Gusty Gus receives favorite treats from my commissions.
DerdriuMarriner, All Rights Reserved.
DerdriuMarriner, All Rights Reserved.
Updated: 09/21/2016, DerdriuMarriner
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