After a season out west among killer bears (Blood Lure, 2001), Anna Pigeon, who’s made her reputation by keeping on the move, is back as District Ranger in Mississippi’s Natchez Trace National Parkway. The Natchez Trace is every bit as beautiful as ever, and insubordinate male underlings like Randy Thigpen (Deep South, 2000) still resent her every bit as much. What’s new is the crisis in her romance with Claiborne County Sheriff Paul Davidson, an Episcopal priest who’s separated, though not divorced, from his calculating wife, and the most embarrassing corpse she’s ever been called away from somebody else’s wedding to examine. Good ol’ boy Doyce Barnette, smothered and stripped to his Fruit of the Looms, has been deposited on Grandma Polly’s decorous bed at the former working plantation Mt. Locust, looking just like a beached whale with a weakness for kinky sex. The revelation is bound to heat up relations among the poker-playing buddies who solemnly alibi each other for the night Doyce died, and the race for Adams County Sheriff, since Doyce’s undertaker brother Ray, who’d hoped to replace Clintus Jones, now has to endure this final affront. Digging deeper, however, Anna finds more dark secrets, from a century-old land grab to a much more recent band of poachers. As usual, the most dangerous species in the park turns out to walk on two legs.
Even fans who thought they’d already seen enough of Natchez Trace will find Barr’s tenth as inventive, as ingenious, and finally as riveting as the very best of this distinguished series.