Back from her sojourn among the ghosts of 1865 (Flashback, 2003), Anna Pigeon, everyone’s favorite park ranger, is, well, waiting tables at the Ahwahnee Hotel.
Three weeks ago, four young people—rock climber Dixon Crofter, trail crewmember Patrick Waters, Ahwahnee hostess Trish Spencer, and summer intern Caitlin Bates—vanished from their jobs in the Yosemite National Park. Did they go hiking and get lost in the surrounding wilderness? Did the brutal snows that followed cut off their return? Or did they meet a more sinister fate? Looking for answers, the National Park Service has sent Anna to the Ahwahnee, the park’s legendary hotel, to work undercover as she quizzes impressionable witnesses like hotel maid Mary Bates and tilts with oversized egos like head chef James Wither. Soon after Anna’s arrival, she and Mary find four unlovely squatters with threadbare cover stories roosting in Dix’s vacated shelter, and a stoned restaurant busgirl, whom Anna’s brought back to life after she stopped breathing and collapsed, entertains a menacing hospital visitor she refuses to identify, though it’s obviously Trish’s no-account brother. All these complications unfold within a series of claustrophobic little rooms, and it’s a deep relief when, halfway through the tale, Anna finally takes to the high-country trails to meet dangers Barr’s eager fans will welcome.
Even more appealing than the carefully clued mystery and the exhilarating survey of Yosemite is Barr’s matchless control of fictional space, from wide-open to grave-narrow.