RogerBW's Blog

Track of the Cat, Nevada Barr 27 June 2016

1993 mystery, first in Barr's Anna Pigeon series, murder mysteries in US National Parks. After the death of her husband, Anna fled from her life in New York to find solitude as a ranger in the Guadalupe Mountains National Park, home to a few mountain lions among other species. But when a colleague is found dead, the paw prints round the body and claw marks on the throat seem to point a little too perfectly to a killer animal.

This was Barr's second novel, coming out nine years after the Western lesbian historical romance Bittersweet, and while it has plenty of rough edges it gets right most of the things for which I read the Anna Pigeon series. The murder plot is complex, and it's interspersed with loving and detailed descriptions of the scenery and wildlife of the park and the practicalities of daily life.

Where it may fall down, and I suspect put off some readers, is in its protagonist: although she develops later in the series, the Anna of this book is a very closed-off person, who may have got over the principal effects of the sudden death of her husband but hasn't seen any need to come out of her shell or enjoy life in more than momentary ways. And she has a morbid sense of humour, especially when she's on her own as she prefers to be.

she saw the trails of black on her hands: blood. It seeped down from her throat, dripped to the ground. Anna chose not to worry about it. Had an artery been severed, she'd be dead by now. Next time she was in town she could get her rabies booster.

Secondary characters are sketched in, but sketched with depth, particularly the clerk-typist Christina Walters who has good reasons for not telling everything she knows.

It's flawed at times, and often slow-moving, but I found this an excellent start to the series. Followed by A Superior Death.

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