The Rope by Nevada Barr: A review

In sixteen previous Anna Pigeon mysteries, author Nevada Barr has given us occasional glimpses of her background and of what led her to the life of a park ranger, but we've never had the full story. Until now. 

In this prequel to the series, we learn about Anna's first experience as a 35-year-old seasonal employee with the Park Service at the Glen Canyon National Recreational Area. Anna was running from the heartbreak of her beloved husband's untimely death in New York and running also from her self-destructive reaction to that death. She looked for something different and far away from her life in New York and accepted the first job she was offered. 

On arriving at her post, she was assigned to assist an educational/interpretive ranger in cleaning human waste from the beaches in the park. She was literally on shit detail. It was hard physical labor but it turned out to be just what she needed. 

Anna came slowly, very slowly, to appreciate some of the wonders of Nature in the park, as well as some of the attributes of her fellow employees, but just as she is beginning to learn to really see what is around her, she interrupts three young toughs who are in the process of raping a woman. The young men turn on her and she is knocked out and ultimately dumped in a pit in the desert. When she awakes, she finds herself trapped there, naked, without water, with no means of escaping. It looks very much like the beginning of her career with the Park Service will be the end of her life. 

Of course, we have those other sixteen books, so we know it wasn't the end, but once Anna is able to emerge from her would-be grave (carrying a baby skunk!) the horror is just beginning. There is something - someone - very evil at Glen Canyon and that person seems bent on destroying Anna Pigeon. Little does that person know with whom s/he is dealing! 

This is another fine entry in the Anna Pigeon saga and it kept me on the edge of my seat and turning those pages. This series has long been a favorite of mine and The Rope lives up to Barr's usual standards. A blurb on the dustcover features a quote from The New York Times book review: "Barr writes with a cool, steady hand about the violence of nature and the cruelty of man." That about sums it up.


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