Cover image for The visitant
The visitant
Gear, Kathleen O'Neal.
Personal Author:
First edition.
Publication Information:
New York : Forge, [1999]

Physical Description:
364 pages : maps ; 25 cm.
Reading Level:
710 Lexile.
Program Information:
Accelerated Reader AR UG 5.3 21.0 65589.

Reading Counts RC High School 8.5 29 Quiz: 20599 Guided reading level: NR.
Added Author:
Format :


Call Number
Material Type
Home Location
Item Holds
X Adult Fiction Central Closed Stacks

On Order



"Dr. Maureen Cole, one of the world's foremost physical anthropologists, has been called in to examine and evaluate a mass grave discovered in New Mexico. The burial site contains only the shattered skulls of women and children."--BOOK JACKET. "Dr. Cole is appalled at the find and begins working immediately to unravel the mystery of these deaths. But as she works, strange things begin to happen around her. Little incidents at first, then her generator quits, and she begins to hear whispering voices emanating from the plastic bags of bones."--BOOK JACKET.

Author Notes

Kathleen O'Neal Gear was born on October 29, 1954 in Tulare, California. She received a B.A. from California State University in Bakersfield and a M.A. from California State University in Chico. She conducted Ph.D. studies at the University of California in Los Angeles and did post-graduate studies at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem in Israel. In the 1980's, she worked as the Wyoming state historian, and later as the archaeologist for Wyoming, Kansas and Nebraska. She received the federal government's Special Achievement Award twice for outstanding management of our nation's cultural heritage.

She married W. Michael Gear in 1982, and they have collaborated on a series of books for young adults. The theme of these books is ancient civilizations, and the titles include People of the Wolf, People of the Fire, People of the Sea, and People of the Lakes. They own Wind River Archaeologist Consultants, which is a private research firm. She has also written several books by herself including the Women of the West series.

(Bowker Author Biography)

Reviews 3

Booklist Review

In the first of a new series, the Anasazi Mysteries, the Gears present a murder mystery which is set in northern New Mexico, involves a serial killer, and is being investigated both now and when it occurred back in the thirteenth century. In the present, the members of an archaeological dig unearth human bones, necessitating the summoning of a NAGPRA (Native American Graves Protection and Repatriation Act) monitor, who arrives in the person of Hail, a frail, elderly woman of strong spirit. Dr. Maureen Cole (briefly met in People of the Masks [1998]), a Canadian Indian forensic anthropologist who has a major personality conflict with lead archaeologist Dusty Stewart, is also on the case. In the past, a band called the Katsinasi People are rebuilding kivas in abandoned cliff dwellings to try to return harmony to the earth. Browser, the war chief, is preparing to bury his young son when a body, identified as his wife, is found in the readied grave with its head shattered under a rock. Then a woman who was watching over the nearby ceremonial fire is found to have been attacked with the same brutality. After yet another murder, Browser sends for his great uncle, an elderly eccentric called Stone Ghost, who has been solving mysteries for more than 50 years. The fascinating details of both Anasazi life and contemporary archaeology enrich an otherwise ordinary crime story in which the perpetrator and motive don't quite ring true. But the vividly depicted characters and settings are satisfying and leave the reader hoping for more titles in this promising series. --Diana Tixier Herald

Publisher's Weekly Review

In the upper Sonoran desert of present-day New Mexico, a charismatic yet troubled archeologist named Dusty Stewart is unearthing a mystery that began about A.D. 1200. While excavating a site of the Chaco Anasazi Indians, Stewart and his team discover mass graves containing the bodies of young women, all with their skulls smashed. Using flashbacks to merge past and present into a relatively seamless tapestry, the Gears depict an ancient, waning Anasazi people plagued with drought, declining resources and rampant tuberculosis. Ash Girl, the wife of the tribal war chief, Browser, has been found deadÄher head crushed and a wolf mask at her side. Young girls continue to disappear from surrounding villages, and Browser, with the aid of his shrewdly eccentric uncle, searches for a serial killer. Meanwhile, in the present, a team of archeologists and anthropologists, most notably Dr. Maureen Cole, who's the heroine of this series launch, are also trying to solve the puzzle of the graves, using not only 20th-century technology, but, in addition, extrasensory perception that links them to the spirits of the past. Breathtaking descriptions evoke the harsh beauty of the desert in both winter and summer, while the lucid, erudite historical perspectives are informed by the authors' own extensive archeological experience. Yet the mystery is needlessly complex, and the enormous cast is unwieldy. For all its considerable strengths, this first book in the Anasazi mystery series falls a notch below the level attained by the Gears in their First North American historicals. $125,000 ad/promo; author tour. (Aug.) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved

Library Journal Review

Things begin to get eerie as an archaeological team starts excavating an ancient civilization in the sweltering New Mexico heat of 1999. First, the team begins to uncover an alarming array of shattered Anasazi skulls alongside the usual shards of old pottery; soon mysterious, impossible things start happening around the dig. In this, the latest installment in the popular "First North American" series, the authors weave together two suspenseful, haunting stories. Along the way, they ask meaningful questions about the relationship between science and religion, history and time, as the anthropologists grapple with their own beliefs and emotions. Readers will enjoy the wide range of characters and thick suspense. Highly recommended for all public libraries.ÄSusan A. Zappia, Maricopa Cty. Lib. Dist., Phoenix (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.



The Visitant By Kathleen O'Neal Gear, W. Michael Gear St. Martin's Press ISBN: 9780312865313 THE VISITANT 1 W ILLIAM "DUSTY" STEWART LOOKED OUT OVER THE desert-worn hood of his battered Bronco. A thin layer of dust had sifted over the older, rain-pocked dirt that had been partially cemented to the seared blue paint. How like this elemental land to claim everything for its own--to mark it, infiltrate it, and become one with it. Behind his Bronco, a convoy of vehicles threaded across the picturesque New Mexican terrain. A land of colored earth surrounded them, dotted with turquoise sagebrush, vibrant green rabbitbrush, and a pale scattering of chamisa. Stewart rubbed his jawline with a callused right hand, feeling the stubble. He'd had trouble remembering to shave all of his life. This morning had been worse than usual. Today marked the beginning of a lifelong dream. Today he'd sink his first shovel into Chaco. Six feet tall, blond and muscular, he wore faded Levi's, a pair of worn Nacono boots, and an oversize T-shirt emblazoned with a Mimbres lizard and the logo for the Casa Malpais site over in Springerville, Arizona. The desert had punished his fair complexion. His oval face with its straight nose and blunt chin had a weathered look. Eventually he would have to pay for those years of sun, wind, chill, and dust. Crow's-feet already etched the corners of his blue eyes. Not good for a man in his mid-thirties. He'd overheard women say he was too damned good-looking. A blond Adonis. Not that good looks had ever gotten him anywhere with women. A familiar unease crept around just under his consciousness. Don't even consider it. Open that door to the past, and you'll spend all day dwelling on it. Funny how something that happened long ago could stick with a man, screw up his whole life. At the crest of a low ridge, Dusty glanced back through the dust boiling up behind the Bronco. The land could not be escaped, not here. Grains of sand infiltrated clothes, homes, and machinery. Its tan, gritty texture eventually came to permeate everything. The vehicles that followed his were strung out across the sage-speckled desert like gleaming beads, a quarter mile apart, linked by fading plumes of dust. To follow any closer meant clogged air filters, jammed cassette players--critical equipment in a land of only two distant radio stations--or stuck doorlocks, or automatic windows. Any other mechanical thing that liked to function in a clean, lubricated environment existed at its own peril. Automotive engineers in Flint, Dearborn, or wherever these trucks were designed, didn't quite understand what "off-road" really meant in the West. Over the years, and with the development of the "Sport Utility" class, something had been lost in the translation. Suburban mothers braving three inches of slush in Peoria as they carried four kids to basketball practice wasn't quite the same challenge as being buried up to the fenders in slimy brown Kayenta mud fifty miles from the nearest pavement. As Dusty's Bronco rocked and jolted along the rutted dirt road, he glanced out the side window at the gnarly cactus and yellow-tufted rabbitbrush. Here and there the buff-colored sand had collected in small dunes--called sand shadows by the geomorphologists. In other places bare outcrops of sandstone concentrated the sun's heat, ironic reminders of the ancient ocean that had once covered New Mexico and Arizona tens of millions of years past. In another time, a mere thousand years ago, this same desert stretch had grown Ponderosa pine, juniper, and lots of grass. But that was before the Anasazi had come with their stone axes, before the frenzied building of the "Great Houses," when over two hundred and fifty thousand trees had been cut for construction alone, not to mention the wood needed to light the giant pueblos, fire the exquisite pottery, cook their meals, and heat their homes. That was before the Anasazi population had burgeoned, and they had planted every arable hectare in corn, beans, and squash. By the end of the eleventh century these eroded ridges had been denuded. Violent monsoon rains had washed away the topsoil, exposed the slick rock, and carved deep arroyos into the flood plains. Each centimeter had lowered the critical water tables. After the exhausted soil finally dried out, most of the people left. Dusty crossed the cattle guard that separated Chaco Culture National Monument from the surrounding Navajo lands, and sighed as his all-terrain tires hummed on the irregular pavement. He waved at the stone-and-wood Park Service entry sign, its white letters looking so crisp on the brown background. To his right lay Pueblo Alto, the nexus of the fabulous Anasazi road system that radiated out to the north, east, west, and south. The ruined pueblo stood hunched and broken against the western horizon. Incongruously, the cell phone chimed. Dusty rounded the curve that led into Mockingbird Canyon, blew the thin coating of dust from the gray plastic, and punched the "Send" button. "Stewart here. It's your nickel." "You're dating yourself, Stewart," Maggie Walking Hawk Taylor's familiar voice chided. "It's like a dollar a minute out here, when you can get any reception at all." "I like dating myself." Stewart smiled, his left hand resting on the use-polished steering wheel. "It's cheaper, and I don't have to impress myself with a forty-dollar bottle of wine." "No wonder no woman will have you for more than two months. You're also late. Where are you?" He ignored the comment about women. He'd just avoided falling into that funk, and he'd be damned if he'd let Maggie edge him into the abyss. "Just dropping down into the canyon. We got held up in Albuquerque. Had a major disaster. The usual place, the one that carries Guinness, was out of stock. We had to convoy across half the city, including a stop at Page One Bookstore--" "You had to go to the bookstore to find Guinness?" "I wish. Anyway, I'll be at the Park Service headquarters building in five minutes." "Great, but I'm out at the site. Like I said, you're late. Knowing how you play fast and loose with the rules, I thought maybe you'd decided to screw the paperwork and gone straight to the dig." "I always obey the rules. Oh, and it's not a dig until we get a shovel into the ground. Technicalities, you know, Maggie?" "If you weren't such a brilliant archaeologist, I'd nail you, Stewart." He heard the smile in her voice. "Anyway, I wanted to get out of the office. You know, away from the phone. I've got all of the paperwork here: excavation permit, a list of ten thousand park rules, the special camping permit, tons of safety requirements, and all the other bureaucratic horse pucky they pay me to enforce." A pause. "Oh, by the way, you're not packing that big pistol around, are you? No, firearms--" "I left my pistol at home, Maggie," Dusty interrupted and used his heel to jam his Model 57 Smith & Wesson back under the seat out of sight. "See you there in about fifteen." "I'll be waiting." He punched the "End" button and dropped the phone onto his seat. During the conversation, he had followed the serpentine blacktop through sheer-walled Mockingbird Canyon and out into the flat bottom of Chaco Canyon. At the stop sign, the Park Service sign pointed the way to various ruins, the campground, and visitor center. To his left, up Chaco Wash, he could see Fajada Butte, home of the Sun Dagger astronomical site, place of legend, where Spider Woman descended to earth. All across the sere landscape he could feel the Power. Chaco called to him, beyond the centuries, across the bridge of cultures, peoples, and worlds. Only the soul-dead left Chaco Canyon unaffected. He took the right and glanced into the rearview mirror. Sylvia's Jeep, Michall's Durango, Steve Sander's ratty old Toyota Land Cruiser, and the University Suburban accelerated behind him. At the end of summer most of the field crew returned home to prepare for next semester. The students he had left were true diehards, the stuff great archaeologists were made of. Even then, two of them would be gone in a few days. Michall Jefferson, a short woman with red hair, would be leaving for the University of Colorado, and Steve Sanders, a tall black man, for the University of Arizona. Dusty drove west past the Visitor's Center, and gazed out at the weathered sandstone cliffs, and the rubble of thousand-year-old pueblos that hemmed the canyon. Chetro Ketl, its massive columns like blunt teeth stood with its straight-walled back to the cliff. The second-story hanging balcony had allowed the Anasazi to enjoy the shade during the midday heat. Then came Pueblo Bonito, the largest Anasazi ruin in the world. In its heyday it had stood five stories tall, with over eight hundred rooms; the walls had been plastered in white clay. The place still ruled the canyon. He couldn't help but cast sidelong glances at the stunning walls. They threw crisp shadows over the empty, ruined rooms. Where once thousands of people had walked in the light of a hundred torches, now only ghosts slipped across the courtyards. The loop road passed Pueblo del Arroyo, then Kin Kletso, and curved southward; there, just before the road crossed Chaco Wash, a brown steel-pole barrier had been opened, the little wooden sign beside it proclaiming AUTHORIZED PERSONNEL ONLY. Dusty slowed and turned off the pavement. After passing Casa Chiquita, the road narrowed to an overgrown two track. Behind him, his caravan followed like a weaving mamba line, each vehicle swaying over the ruts. Sunlight reflected from chrome and glass. Greasewood made squealing sounds as it scratched the sides of his Bronco. A single puke-green Park Service truck had been parked off to one side. No more than thirty meters beyond it, a woman stood on what looked like a rocky outcrop, the stones studded with brush. Another two hundred meters beyond her, the sheer sandstone canyon wall rose against the pale blue New Mexico sky. Maggie Walking Hawk Taylor turned, hands propped on her hips. She stood five feet six inches tall. Her round face betrayed her Indian ancestry. The faint breeze teased unruly strands of her short black hair around her dark eyes, and broad cheekbones. She wore a Park Service uniform and tan boots on her feet. The belted brown pants hugged a trim waist. She cocked her head and smiled. Dusty nudged his Bronco past her pickup and into a flagged area that would be the field crew's parking lot. He set the brake and turned off the ignition. Then he fiddled through the clutter of notebooks on the passenger seat and retrieved an aluminum clipboard that held a fieldwork authorization and a site map. Dusty opened the door and walked over to where Maggie waitedon the pile of cracked rock. Her large brown eyes reflected amusement and excitement. During the excavation she would be the "Authorized Officer," meaning the Park Service person in charge, since the government didn't speak real English. "Good to see you again, Maggie." Dusty extended his hand, and she shook it. He looked out over the rubble. In the background he could hear the slamming of truck doors and the chatter of the field crew as they began unloading the vehicles. "You ready for this?" Maggie asked, looking out at the section of desert. Six yellow stakes, each made of freshly sawed lath and topped with blaze-orange flagging tape, created a long rectangle in the greasewood. The stakes marked the future location of a weather monitoring site for NOAA. A tower would stand on a huge concrete slab, and solar powered antennae would beam satellite information back and forth. In all, over three thousand square meters of desert would be disturbed during construction. "I've been waiting all of my life for the chance to dig here." He opened the metal clipboard and produced his excavation permit with a flourish. "Here you go. All signed, sealed, delivered, and official." Then he added wryly. "Just what a good, rule-bound boy like me would do." She took the paper, scanned it quickly, and said, "You and Dr. Robertson are listed as Co-principal Investigators. Sylvia Rhone will be the Crew Chief. Is Sylvia here?" As if on command, Sylvia appeared, trooping through the sagebrush with a transit and tripod slung over her shoulder. Beneath a ball cap that proclaimed: "Member, Chinle Yacht Club," her shoulder-length brown hair had been tied into a pony tail. A sleeveless red T-shirt exposed muscular, tanned arms, and she wore her faded-blue Levi's tucked into scuffed hiking boots. "Hey there, Magpie," Sylvia called "Maggie" by her real name: Magpie Walking Hawk Taylor. "Long time no see. How's life as a tourist herder?" "Hi, Sylvia. Same old thing. The tourists still want the thirty miles of road between here and the highway paved. People keep picking up bits of pottery and stuffing them into their pockets. A couple of the rock art panels on the canyon wall were vandalizedlast week. We've had to restrict more of the park to protect what's left." "People suck." Sylvia settled the tripod's pointed feet onto the dirt. "Imagine how they'd trash it if that thirty-mile stretch was paved." She looked around, her green eyes narrowing as if sighting a rifle. "It's better like this. A private and peaceful jewel." She paused. "Uh, we got a datum here anyplace?" "Datum?" Maggie asked. "The reference point we use to lay out the excavation grid," Dusty told her. "Come on, let's go see." As he walked, he pulled out the survey map Dale had drawn months ago when he first came to inspect the construction site for archaeology. The site had been given the Smithsonian number 29SJ10003. Twenty-nine for the state of New Mexico, SJ for San Juan county, and ten thousand and three for the number of sites in the county. The pile of rocks where they stood--actually a small collapsed Anasazi pueblo--was clearly labeled. Dusty glanced around, oriented himself to the west, and paced out from the edge of the tumbled rock for six long paces. "According to the map, X marks the spot. Look around." "Got it," Maggie cried, pointing down. "29SJ10003." Sylvia settled the heavy tripod over the aluminum cap. "Mama, we're home." She immediately began extending the legs and leveling the instrument. Leaving her to fiddle with the transit, Dusty walked out into the middle of the lath-marked rectangle. Maggie paced silently beside him. Hot wind tugged at his blond hair, and whispered softly through the brush. In the distance, a red-tailed hawk shrieked. Shadows had lengthened on the canyon wall. If he just loosened the bonds of reality, he could step back, hear that hawk's call eight hundred years ago, and feel this same hot breeze. A clatter erupted as Michall Jefferson dropped a bundle of wooden stakes by the transit and asked Sylvia if she needed help. "Hey, you still here?" Maggie asked from Dusty's left elbow. "Huh?" He glanced at her, this world coming into focus again. Maggie studied him through serious brown eyes. "I've seen eyes like that before. You were looking back, weren't you?" "You bet." "Grandma Slumber used to get that look. My aunts still do. But they're of the people, White Eyes." "Of the people," Dusty mused. He bent down, clutching a handful of the silty sand. "I'm about to uncover artifacts that haven't been touched in over eight hundred years, Maggie. Trust me, when you do that, it makes a bridge. I can feel them. We both touch the same bit of stone, see the colors, feel the flaking on the sharp edge." "You're different, then." "Different?" "Yeah, most archaeologists I know just see the science. That and the damned statistical proofs." "Yeah, well," he said, and let the sand trickle through his fingers. "There are two kinds of archaeologists, the kind who dig for theories, and the kind who dig for people. Each site is a special miracle that lets me touch those people. If only for a tiny sliver of time. I've wanted to touch the Chaco Anasazi all of my life, Maggie." Maggie's eyes had grown larger, seeming to swell in her round brown face. "Just be careful, Dusty. The old ones will be watching you." She paused. "Will they find you worthy?" He tilted his blond head. "I doubt it. I can't imagine why they'd be different from everybody else." Maggie smiled. "I have to get back. See you later." She turned, and walked away. The hot wind teased her straight black hair, and the brush scratched hollowly at her cotton pants. Dusty closed his eyes, straining, hearing the faint whisper of the breeze through the succulent leaves of the greasewood. Every time he walked out onto a site for the first time, the quickening came to his blood. Each site had its own unique personality, and guarded its secrets. A site became an obsession, a challenging seductress who lured him, tried to mislead and obscure as she was coaxed to reveal her most intimate details. And like a woman, it needed to be coddled and caressed before it would finally yield to his advances. Am I worthy? The question rolled around his mind like an off-balance wheel. Seeking to escape the wreckage of his youth, he'd driven himself to become the best in his field. But he never really felt good enough. Sometimes he could sit in an excavation unit and feel as if he were having a lengthy conversation with people who'd died ten thousand years ago, and other times his greatest efforts failed to open even a pinprick view of the past. "Hey, boss man?" Sylvia called. "We're ready over here." Dusty straightened. "On my way." Copyright © 1999 by Kathleen O'Neal Gear and W. Michael Gear Excerpted from The Visitant by Kathleen O'Neal Gear, W. Michael Gear All rights reserved by the original copyright owners. Excerpts are provided for display purposes only and may not be reproduced, reprinted or distributed without the written permission of the publisher. Excerpted from The Visitant by Kathleen O'Neal Gear, W. Michael Gear All rights reserved by the original copyright owners. Excerpts are provided for display purposes only and may not be reproduced, reprinted or distributed without the written permission of the publisher.