A National Park Mystery Novel


El Capitan, Yosemite National Park

Destination: Yosemite National Park, United States

Book: High Country by Nevada Barr

Nevada Barr, a former NPS ranger, has written twelve mysteries featuring Anna Pigeon, an NPS ranger.  As I have said around here before, I find that mystery writers generally do a magnificent job of evoking place–so they make great travel reads.  Unwittingly, I picked–from my local library’s wide selection of Nevada Barr books–the latest one.  Now, of course, I’ll have to find time to start at the beginning so I can follow the development of the offbeat female lead.

Barr’s book reminds the reader that National Park Rangers play more roles than just pointing out the restrooms and giving times for the next video show in the information center. First, they are officers of the law.

Yosemite in fog by Dale Carlson
Yosemite in fog by Dale Carlson

Of course, I doubt that most rangers have stumbled over as many corpses as Anna Pigeon, our forty-something heroine.  In High Country (An Anna Pigeon Novel)Anna is on undercover duty as a waitress at Ahwanee Lodge in Yosemite Park.

[Note: in a controversial move in 2017, the park’s vendor changed the name of the lodge to The Majestic Yosemite Hotel.  Even the bellhop admitted to us that he still calls it Ahwanee.]

Three young people have disappeared and she has taken the waitressing job of one of them in order to scope out what happened.

What happened before she arrived does not hold a candle to what happens to her.  No spoilers here.  I will just say that I have not read such a fast-paced book for quite a while.  Except for the fact that I generally take a pass on thrillers, I would say that this book passes the depth mark for mystery and plunges into thriller. The author piles on the life-threatening situations and page after page leaves you wondering if this may be the last Anna Pigeon book.  Surely she won’t be able to get out of this–or this–or this. (And if you go to her web site, you will see that Nevada Barr looks like such a nice lady.)

Yosemite Park on the Merced River
Yosemite Park on the Merced River

Meanwhile, the author keeps you entertained with witty and unexpectedly literate writing.  The neat turns of phrase and humor mean that you may be quivering in fear at points, but you’ll be quaking with laughter at other times.

And in the background, beautiful, gloomy, challenging Yosemite plays the major role.  The book makes me regret that I have not yet checked that particular national park off my list.  Although If I were a backcountry hiker, I would not want to read this book by the campfire, I highly recommend reading it, and others in the series, if you want to get a new view of our national parks.

Photos from Flickr under Creative Commons License. First and last by Jim Brekke,  Fog by Dale Carlson aka Dalebert.

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About Vera Marie Badertscher

A freelance writer who loves to travel. When she is not traveling she is reading about travel. When she is not reading or traveling, she is sharing with the readers of A Traveler's Library, or recreating her family's past at Ancestors In Aprons . She has written for Reel Life With Jane, Life is a Trip and other websites. Also co-author of a biography, Quincy Tahoma, The Life and Legacy of a Navajo Artist. Contact Vera Marie by e-mail.

5 thoughts on “A National Park Mystery Novel

  1. Great tie in to National Park freebies!

    I love the Nevada Barr novels, though they have the problem that any series with a hero/heroine who is not a detective or member of the police has: too many dead bodies in a profession where you don’t expect them. Still, as you point out, park rangers are officers of the law. And it’s far better than books featuring caterers or cooks who continue to have a following even though bodies continue to drop all around them.
    .-= Edie´s last blog ..About My New Book: Am I Boring My Dog? =-.

    1. Edie: I really wish I had thought about the tie-in earlier–could have read THREE Nevada Barrs. For the free days in June and July, in addition to August. Maybe they’ll keep having free days just for my benefit? Or I could have broadened my outlook, and read Donna’s suggestions of “Letters from Yellowstone” and other good stuff. Thanks to both of you for dropping by.

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