Book Review: Shaman Winter, Book #3 in the Sonny Baca Mystery Quartet by Rudolfo Anaya

by DerdriuMarriner

Shaman Winter, Book #3 in the Sonny Baca Mystery Quartet by Rudolfo Anaya, considers healers and naguales in the defense of animals, babies, and seniors around Old Albuquerque.

Shaman Winter begins with rashes of unsolved abductions

Shaman Winter accepts the third-place title in the Sonny Baca Mystery Quartet written by Rudolfo Alfonso Anaya (born October 30, 1937), as:
• the Land of Enchantment’s anthologist, counselor, editor, essayist, folklorist, historian, myth-maker, novelist, storyteller;
• the United States of America’s forty-seventh state’s living treasure; and
• the University of New Mexico’s emeritus literature professor in Albuquerque.

The detective novel belongs in the mystery novel series lineup between:
• Book #1, Zia Summer;
• Book #2, Rio Grande Fall; and
• Book #4, Jemez Spring.

Journeys through a year’s seasons in Albuquerque -- a mile-high city at 5,312 feet (1,619.09 meters) -- carry private eye Sonny Baca into winter in a wheelchair because of misused defibrillators in a cocaine- and heroin-filled warehouse.

"Shaman Winter," Rudolfo Anaya's third installment in his Sonny Baca quartet, follows its predecessors' seasons of summer and autumn.

wintry downtown Albuquerque, New Mexico
wintry downtown Albuquerque, New Mexico

Shaman Winter considers crime-solving through interviews, observations, questions


Sonny does not emerge unscathed from his autumnal adventures with baboon heart transplant pioneers, cocaine and heroin entrepreneurs, and hot air balloon casualties. He endures months in a wheelchair, thanks to Jerry Stammer, as cocaine and heroin businessman and heart surgeon, using defibrillators to protect himself in a drug-filled warehouse from charges, proceedings, and sentences for deaths and drugs. He finds himself nevertheless capable of apprehending kidnappers of young girls and preventing future occurrences.

Cantina-owning girlfriend Rita López, Tlaxcala-trained healer Lorenza Villa, and Pueblo-practicing neighbor Don Eliseo Romero give Sonny survivalist edges. They have the smarts, stamina, and strength to help Sonny persevere in his investigations. Sonny is able to stop kidnapping as the season’s high-profile crime. 


the naguals, shapeshifting creatures

Codex Yoalli Ehēcatl, known post-Conquest as Codex Borgia, page 22
Codex Yoalli Ehēcatl, known post-Conquest as Codex Borgia, page 22

Shaman Winter describes crime-perpetrating/preventing, dreaming, flying, meditating spirits


Don Eliseo, Lorenza, and Rita judge spiritual cleansing and consciousness as critical in the struggle between: 

  • chaos-loving, evil-promoting super-witches (tlahuelpuchis) and witches (brujos); and 
  • good-facilitating, harmony-loving healers (curanderas) and humans (such as the Hopi and the Pueblo Native Americans).

They know that Sonny must be able to dream, fly, and meditate his way along spirit-world pathways through awareness of and cooperation with his nagual (animal spirit), Coyote. They thereby let Sonny stop Raven’s dreamland invasions to:

  • eliminate shamanic ancestors, from the time of Owl Woman in 1598 onward; and
  • leave Sonny without bloodlines from which to descend.

The three-pronged guidance means that Sonny does not get factored out of the cycle of life, but at super-high costs. 


Rudolfo Anaya reveals in "Shaman Winter" that Sonny Baca's nagual (animal spirt) is a coyote (Canis latrans).

Coyote: Bosque del Apache National Wildlife Refuge, southern Socorro County, west central New Mexico
Coyote: Bosque del Apache National Wildlife Refuge, southern Socorro County, west central New Mexico

Shaman Winter exacts heavy tolls when spirits tangle


Raven easily notices what and who are important in Sonny’s personal life and professional career. He therefore opts to:

  • cause Rita to miscarry her and Sonny’s unborn twin daughters;
  • imprison the spirits of Rita’s and Sonny’s twins within his nagual’s chaotic, dark, raven-filled world;
  • murder Don Eliseo; and
  • mutilate Chica, Sonny’s red dachshund.

Raven plans his revenge to be so overwhelming as to delay or discourage counter-actions. But Sonny’s love instead questions how to honor the dead, release imprisoned souls, and treat one-eyed vision.

So Shaman Winter regales Book #3 readers with culturally enriching, educationally entertaining, geo-politically enthralling adventures amid New Mexico’s healers, animal spirits, and super-witches), thanks to:

  • Rudolfo Anaya, author; and
  • Warner Books, Inc., publisher. 


Shaman Winter by Rudolfo Anaya ~ available via Amazon

The year is 1958. Owl Woman, daughter of a shaman, will enter New Mexico as an angel of peace: one who carries dreams. In her hands, she bears a mysterious bowl. It is the Calendar of Dreams, the key to fate, without which there is no future.
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.


In "Shaman Winter," Sonny Baca travels back in time via his dreams to the expedition into New Mexico (Nuevo México) led by New World conquistador Juan de Oñate (1550 - June 3, 1626):

Oñate's expedition commenced in April 1598 with his crossing of the muddy, slow waters of the Rio Grande near El Paso.
Rio Grande in west El Paso near New Mexico state line
Rio Grande in west El Paso near New Mexico state line

Sources Consulted


Anaya, Rudolfo. 1999. Shaman Winter. New York, NY: Warner Books, Inc. 


In his dreams in "Shaman Winter," Sonny Baca captains in Juan de Oñate's 1598 search for fabled Seven Cities of Cíbola in failed footsteps of Francisco Vázquez de Coronado (1510 – September 22, 1554) ~

"Landscape with an Episode from the Conquest of America": ca. 1535 oil on panel by Jan Jansz Mostaert (ca. 1474 - ca. 1552/53)
Rijksmuseum, Amsterdam, North Holland province, western Netherlands
Rijksmuseum, Amsterdam, North Holland province, western Netherlands
the end which is also the beginning
the end which is also the beginning

New Mexico: black t-shirt ~ available via AllPosters

image by Charmaine Olivia
New Mexico
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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: 04/07/2015, DerdriuMarriner
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