Prequel to Barr’s popular Anna Pigeon series.
For readers who have always wondered what made Anna Pigeon forsake a Manhattan theatre career for the life of a ranger/sleuth in the country’s most godforsaken locales, some answers: Anna, traumatized by the sudden departure of her husband, Zach, shuts her eyes and picks a job, any job, as long as it’s different from her old life. And what could be more alien than a summer as a seasonal assistant in the National Park Service, where she is immediately assigned to help ranger Jenny, aka the Fecal Queen, remove human waste deposited by tourists on the shores of the otherwise pristine Lake Powell, Utah. This dam-created lake nestled in deep canyons is a favorite destination for houseboaters, including bands of partying overprivileged 20-somethings. Unused to desert conditions, Anna embarks on an ill-advised solo hike, where she surprises three college-age boys raping a young woman. The next thing Anna knows, she awakens in a sinkhole, naked, with a bruised skull and a dislocated arm. Intermittently conscious, with nothing to drink but the apparently drugged contents of a canteen, Anna discovers the corpse of the rape victim (whose name bracelet identifies her as Kay) buried nearby. Anna eventually vows to get in even better shape to handle the rough terrain—and characters—of her new world. Along the way, the obvious culprits turn out not to be so obvious, and Barr succeeds in keeping us guessing as to who the real psychopaths are.
Cliffhangers, literal and literary, abound.