Nevada Barr is one of my favorite authors. She is the best-selling author of 17 books about Anna Pigeon, a National Park Service Ranger. Barr sets her books in many of the parks where she served as an NPS Ranger herself. I’ve watched with interest and affection as Anna has grown over the years, but even in her first book “Track of the Cat” she’s a take-charge Law Enforcement Ranger who’s physically capable and mentally confident.
In her latest book ”The Rope,” Barr takes us back to Anna’s first assignment in Glen Canyon National Recreational Area, encompassing Lake Powell. Anna is regarded as a freak by her colleagues; dressing in New York black and concealing her grieving heart with aloof, yet polite, attitude. So, when she disappears, her fellow workers think she’s decamped for home. Anna is not safely back in the canyons of Manhattan however, but lying naked at the bottom of a “pot,” a natural hole in the desert floor with no water, food or clothes. She doesn’t remember a thing except setting out for a hike. She also has a painful, bloody knot on her head. She’s unable to climb out of the pot, and she realizes she’s physically unfit and was unprepared for desert life. Tormented by thirst, she finally sleeps again and wakes to find a canteen of drugged water and a protein bar. She also discovers a shallow grave in the pot, enclosing the decomposing body of a woman. How she gets out, her quest to find her kidnapper and the murderer, a charming interlude with a baby skunk, and her dealings with the macho sensibilities of both male Rangers and campers make an absorbing tale. The identity of the killer is in doubt until the very last second.
At the conclusion, Anna is physically fit and decides to come back and train as a Law Enforcement Ranger because, as she says, more women should have guns and know how to use them. All in all, I really enjoyed this look into Anna’s beginnings, but I’m still anxiously waiting the consequences to her personal life, left hanging in her last book, “Burn.”