Though she loves her varied postings as a National Park Service ranger (Liberty Falling, 1999, etc.) and hates administration, Anna Pigeon’s not getting any younger or richer, so she puts in for promotion, and next thing she knows she’s driving hell-for-leather alongside Mississippi mud and alligators en route to her posting as district ranger of the Port Gibson District. The area is fabulously fertile (new weeds spring from dead trees before their last leaves have fallen), obsessed with the past (Anna stumbles on a group of Civil War reenactors soon after her arrival), and about to become the site of an ugly murder (a prom queen is found bashed to death draped in a sheet, her neck in a noose that can’t help reminding Anna of the KKK the locals assure her is long dormant). As always in this rewarding series, the people, from Anna’s slyly insubordinate subordinates to a local sheriff who just happens to be an Episcopal priest, walk and talk and break the law with memorable authority, and Barr paints Port Gibson and its environs, natural and man-made and -unmade, in vivid strokes. But her decision to treat all rural Mississippi as Anna’s bailiwick, instead of concentrating on the individuality of one of the national parks Anna’s worked so brilliantly in the past, gilds the place a little too thickly with cultural myths—as if all Dixie were a biosphere for endangered species—and lays bare the contrivances of her ingenious plot. Still, Barr’s many fans, eager to see her take on every federal property in the nation, will treasure her atmospheric presentation of Mississippi as the country’s biggest little town.