Shaman Winter, the fourth volume in Anaya’s Albuquerque quartet, represents the series’ most experimental exploration of the intricate link that Anaya sees between sleuthing and discovering cultural and ethnic identity in a multicultural contemporary world.

As in the other volumes in the quartet, Shaman Winter centers on the confrontation between Sonny Braca, a heroic detective, and his nemesis Raven, an evil cult leader of radical environmental activists, a charismatic chameleon-like power broker who, with fanatic commitment, leads antinuclear protests in terroristic acts of mayhem to promote their agenda. He presents an imposing challenge to Braca: Articulate and intelligent, championing the defense of the New Mexico landscape (although through nefarious means), he is also a brujo, or shaman, able to assume the shape of a raven at will.

In this closing volume, however, the confrontation between the two characters turns decidedly metaphysical (to the dismay of many critics of the book who see the metaphysical elements as heavy-handed and didactic). There is a conventional thriller plot: The mayor’s teenage daughter is kidnapped by white supremacists under the direction of Raven (four raven feathers are found on her pillow). Yet Anaya develops much of this narrative within the dreamworld of Sonny, who has been hospitalized from his showdown with Raven in Rio Grande Fall and is now...

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