RogerBW's Blog

High Country, Nevada Barr 16 December 2015

2004 mystery, twelfth in Barr's Anna Pigeon series, murder mysteries in US National Parks. After four seasonal park employees disappear on the same day in Yosemite, Anna Pigeon goes undercover to try to find out what happened.

This is a solid mystery story, playing with the reader's expectations to spin a multi-part puzzle that's distinctly tricky to solve. The writing continues to be lush and atmospheric, and Anna has a very distinctive voice even though narration is in the third person.

Pacing is a little odd, though. The prize sequence, in the middle of the book, has Anna in an extended struggle in the wilderness against the elements, bad guys, and a crippling injury: it's superb and atmospheric stuff, but it made everything before and afterwards pale by comparison. I found myself suspecting it had been written first, or at least with most enjoyment, and the rest of the story wrapped round it. The final confrontation relies on Anna trusting someone she shouldn't, a mistake she's made before.

A side element in the plot works very well: Anna has emergency contacts among the regular Yosemite rangers, but for various reasons one is called away and the other is useless, so she can't employ the backup she normally would. Yes, she could bail out, but she's too stubborn to give up and let someone else try to follow an even colder trail. On the other hand, there are several minor characters whose stories are interesting but don't get resolved; a final chapter giving short summaries of what happened next, in the style of Simon Brett, would have been welcome.

The regular characters are lacking again: there's some brief mention of a couple of them, but they don't come on-stage, as the book's set entirely within Yosemite.

There's a bit more gore than usual, and several different sorts of nastiness from the villains, but for me this is another fine addition to the series. Followed by Hard Truth.

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