Seventy miles west of Key West is Dry Tortugas National Park, home to tiny Garden Key, Fort Jefferson, and now Anna Pigeon, in retreat from importunate Episcopal priest/sheriff Paul Davidson (Hunting Season, 2002). The supervising ranger’s position is open on an interim basis because the last supervisor, Lanny Wilcox, was placed on medical leave after Theresa Alvarez, his Cuban girlfriend, left him and he flipped out and began seeing things. Anna’s been on the island only a few days when she begins to wonder whether she’s following in Lanny’s footsteps. She’s been absorbed in the endless bundle of letters her sister Molly has sent her from their great-great-aunt Raffia Coleman to her sister about the hardships of life on the island in 1865, when Fort Jefferson was pressed into service to house a thousand Confederate prisoners of war. And now Anna could swear she’s seen Aunt Raffia herself wandering the grounds. Is somebody playing with her head? Is she going crazy? Or is she stressed out from the discovery of a mysterious burned-out boat and the undersea search for clues about its casualties that almost kills her? Anna won’t know till she’s made it through Aunt Raffia’s interspersed letters, which raise questions of their own about the guilt of Dr. Samuel Mudd, held in Fort Jefferson after setting assassin John Wilkes Booth’s broken leg.
Fans looking for Barr’s trademark pleasures—evocative natural descriptions, mounting suspense, Anna’s never-say-die spirit—will have to look hard to find them buried under all those mysteries, villains, and centuries in this most grandly scaled of her 11 adventures.