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High Country: An Anna Pigeon Mystery    by Nevada Barr order for
High Country
by Nevada Barr
Order:  USA  Can
Putnam, 2004 (2004)
Hardcover, Audio, CD
* * *   Reviewed by G. Hall

Just in time for summer vacation planning, Nevada Barr has written another mystery set in a U.S. national park. High Country is the 11th entry in a series which has taken its heroine, park ranger Anna Pigeon, from Mesa Verde to Lake Superior, the U.S. Virgin Islands, and now to Yosemite National Park.

Middle-aged Anna stands out from the crowd of female mystery protagonists as a very independent, somewhat ornery loner, who really prefers trees and the park's non-human denizens to the tourists and park personnel she must deal with every day. This time, Anna has been sent to Yosemite to pose undercover at the historic Ahwahnee Hotel. She looks into the mysterious disappearance of four young park residents, including a hotel waitress. It is pure pleasure to watch Anna befriend hotel employees ... 'Anna was finding the spying business harder than she had anticipated. Chatting, drawing people out - being downright likable - was work for her at the best of times. Doing so with ulterior motives was an absolute grind'.

Anna diligently investigates, ending up in a very precarious situation in the park's high country where the missing young people were last seen. Barr excels when it comes to describing Anna's adventures in the wild, especially when she is in danger. Who can forget the thrills of Firestorm, where she was trapped in the midst of a forest fire in a firefighter's tent in Lassen National Park, or Blind Descent, which had her fighting claustrophobia as she descended deep into New Mexico's Carlsbad Caverns? High Country has its own mesmerizing section where Anna, suffering an injured foot, flees from several bad guys through the absolute blackness of a high country night.

In contrast to many heroines who unrealistically survive despite incredible odds, Anna is a credible character. While depicted as a fit middle-aged woman, it is Anna's outdoors-savvy that gives her the edge, rather than her physical skills. This park ranger lives to hike another day by using her head. While the story does slow down somewhat after Anna returns from the high country and the loose ends of the plot are tied up, I still found this book to be one of the best of recent Anna Pigeon mysteries. Whether readers actually ever visit the national parks, they can enjoy them vicariously by dipping into High Country or any other Nevada Barr mystery.

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