RogerBW's Blog

Liberty Falling, Nevada Barr 27 July 2016

1999 mystery, seventh in Barr's Anna Pigeon series, murder mysteries in US National Parks. With her sister hospitalised in New York, Anna stays on Liberty Island (where the statue is) and explores Ellis Island outside hospital visiting hours. Then a young girl falls to her death from the statue.

Clearly this is something of a departure for the series: not only is Anna a guest rather than a worker in this park, it's one that deals with a built environment rather than wilderness, albeit a built environment that's largely fallen into decay. It pushes both Anna and the reader out of their comfort zones for these books, which is probably a good thing in a long-running series.

The thread with Anna's sister never quite coheres with the rest of the book: it's much more than just visiting a relative in distress, since not only has Molly been a background presence throughout the series, and not only does an old friend turn up, but there's another emotional plot to be resolved there too. It ends up taking time away from the primary mystery, which is an intriguing combination of grand and tawdry, and involves false accusations and multiple deaths – but doesn't get as developed as it might have been.

That built environment is effectively used, though, with some excellent descriptive passages even if there's nothing to match the big tense scenes in some of the other books.

The grand and the tawdry are effectively combined in multiple ways, and if some of the characters are drawn from stock (particularly Mandy the generic bitchy young woman) they still get their jobs done.

Followed by Deep South.

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