Book Review: Rio Grande Fall, Book #2 in the Sonny Baca Mystery Quartet by Rudolfo Anaya

by DerdriuMarriner

Rio Grande Fall, Book #2 in the Sonny Baca Mystery Quartet by Rudolfo Anaya, congregates fatalities of Hot Air Balloon Fiesta participants with cocaine and heroin entrepreneurs.

Rio Grande Fall considers Albuquerque's accidents in autumn

Rio Grande Fall acknowledges the popularity and versatility in literary outputs by New Mexico’s living treasure, Rudolfo Alfonso Anaya (born October 30, 1937), as:
• anthologist;
• editor, essayist;
• folklorist;
• historian;
• mythologist;
• novelist;
• science fictionist, storyteller; and
• University of New Mexico emeritus professor.

It brings the case-closing commitments of former high school teacher, present private investigator Elfego Francisco Baca to the next level as detective novel #2 in the Sonny Baca Mystery Quartet of:
• Book #1, Zia Summer;
• Book #3, Shaman Winter; and
• Book #4, Jemez Spring.

Book #2 continues Sonny’s pursuit of anti-nuclear activist Antony Pájaro for:
• assuming a livestock-poaching, polygamy-practicing identity as Sandia Mountain commune leader Raven;
• killing Dorothy Glass and Gloria Dominguez Dominic; and
• mutilating livestock.

Albuquerque Balloon Festival: Hot air balloons lifting off from the Albuquerque International Balloon Fiesta fly over the Rio Grande.

NASA photo by Tom Tschida ~ October 4, 2009
NASA photo by Tom Tschida ~ October 4, 2009

Rio Grande Fall describes hot air balloon surprises


Raven's falling into floodwaters does not close criminal cases or end ongoing investigations since black feathers continue to be left as calling cards and no body is recovered from Arroyo del Sol (River of the Sun) east of the Sandia Mountain village of La Cuerva. Trouble indeed emerges with preparations for the first week of October's colorful Hot Air Balloon Fiesta, as: 

  • Albuquerque's biggest moneymaker, to the tune of $25,000,000 to $30,000,000 per year; and 
  • New Mexico's most exciting, international, and profitable revenue source along with summer's state fair and September's tourism. 

One of Raven's wives, Sister Hawk, furnishes $250,000 -- from the $500,000 stolen from Akira's gift to Gloria -- to release Veronica Worthy on bail. 


Petroglyph National Monument, one of largest petroglyph sites in North America:

symbols related to sky and weather, such as cloud terraces and stars
Bernalillo County, north central New Mexico
Bernalillo County, north central New Mexico

Rio Grande Fall embraces four assaults, four murders


The temporary freedom gives Veronica enough time to: 

  • fall from a gondola whose hot air balloon is headed toward Petroglyph Park near the West Mesa's extinct volcanoes and whose propane tank explodes near Cottonwood Mall; 
  • perish from impalement on cottonwood stumps in the river bosque near Montaño and Coors; and 
  • receive posthumously four black feathers. 

Veronica's death halts DA Schwarz's prosecution of Raven's Zia sun queen, Tamara Dubronsky, for orchestrating Dorothy's and Gloria's summertime murders. It is followed by cocaine and heroin dealers Mariano Bustamante (aliased Mario Secco) being shot, John Gilroy getting his carotid artery severed thrice and throat slit in his Mayan-styled Pyramid Hotel sixth-floor room's bathtub, and Andrew Stammer having his carotid arteries stilettoed. 


Petroglyph National Monument comprises much of West Mesa, an elevated landmass south of Albuquerque.

A view of Albuquerque and the Manzano Mountains from the West Mesa
A view of Albuquerque and the Manzano Mountains from the West Mesa

Rio Grande Fall finds three killers at large


Investigations with Manuel Lopez join spirituality with Lorenza Villa and Don Eliseo Romero to enable Sonny to:

  • dream and meditate through his nagual (guardian animal) coyote; and
  • rescue Diego's and Marta's daughter Cristina and Rita's Cantina owner/operator from Raven's Zia sun symbol-shaped compound.

A faded Colombian cartel-related photo from Alisandra Bustamante-Smith keeps Sonny busy investigating as cocaine and heroine entrepreneurs and murder suspects:

  • Tamara;
  • William Stone; and
  • Madge Swenson.

So Rio Grande Fall leads Book #2 readers through culturally enriching, educationally entertaining journeys in the forty-seventh state's Anglo-, Chicano-, and Pueblo-bequeathed Land of Enchantment with: 

  • Rudolfo Anaya, author; 
  • Marion Ettlinger, portrait photographer;
  • Giorgetta Bell McRee, book designer;
  • Andrew Newman, jacket designer and illustrator; and
  • Warner Books, publisher. 


Rio Grande Fall by Rudolfo Anaya ~ available via Amazon

In the sequel to the critically lauded Zia Summer, small-time Chicano private eye Sonny Baca of New Mexico returns to untangle a web of deceit involving drug smugglers, bizarre medical experiments, murder, and the supernatural.
Rudolfo Anaya writings



My special thanks to talented artists and photographers/concerned organizations who make their fine images available on the internet.


Intriguing landscape of New Mexico's Petroglyph National Monument finds mention in "Rio Grande Fall," second of quartet of detective mystery novels by Rudolfo Anaya ~

charming petroglyph of star being
Rinconada section, Petroglyph National Monument
Rinconada section, Petroglyph National Monument

Sources Consulted


Anaya, Rudolfo. 1996. Rio Grande Fall. New York, NY: Warner Books, Inc.


Iconic cottonwoods (Populus deltoides) turn yellow in autumn along Rio Grande in New Mexico ~

Unfortunately cottonwood stumps serve as fatal mode of impalement in Rudolfo Anaya's "Rio Grande Fall."
"inner glow": autumnal cottonwoods
"inner glow": autumnal cottonwoods
the end which is also the beginning
the end which is also the beginning

Nightglow at the Albuquerque Hot Air Balloon Fiesta, New Mexico, USA: photo by William Sutton ~ photographic print ~ available via AllPosters

Nightglow at the Albuquerque Hot Air Balloon Fiesta, New Mexico, USA

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: 08/02/2021, DerdriuMarriner
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