Ranger Anna Pigeon, Nevada Barr's series heroine (High Country, Flashback), meets her match in this engrossing new thriller set in Rocky Mountain National Park. Heath Jarrod is a climber now confined to a wheelchair after an accident that left her crippled, angry and depressed: "For a few months after the fall, she'd played Christopher Reeve, pretending to be as optimistic, as cheerful, but she was a lousy actor and ... she'd rung down the curtain. The first of many curtains." But there's a second act in her future that begins when two terrified, half-naked little girls stumble out of the woods and into Heath's "handicamp"--they've been missing for weeks, but are too traumatized to tell Heath and then Anna where they've been, or what happened to the third girl who disappeared with them. Beth, the younger, wins Heath's heart; with Anna, she pursues an investigation that leads to a bizarre, quasi-religious cult that's set up its headquarters just outside the park's boundaries, and the youth group leader who'd taken the girls into the wilderness and returned without them. Is Robert Proffit the gentle, spiritual man Anna's seasonal law enforcement agent Rita Perry thinks he is, or a twisted rapist and probable killer whose prayers for the innocent girls in his charge mask his evil nature?
The mysteries keep piling on, as one gruesome discovery leads to another, and Heath begins to realize that even though she's lost the use of her legs, the same tenacity that made her one of the world's leading mountaineers has even more rewarding summits to achieve. Barr builds the suspense skillfully and drives the narrative to a bloody, violent, and unexpected conclusion in one of her best mysteries to date. --Jane Adams
From Publishers Weekly
In Barr's taut 13th thriller to feature Anna Pigeon (after 2004's High Country), the 50-ish National Park Service ranger leaves her new husband, Paul, back in Mississippi, to assume a new post in Colorado's Rocky Mountain National Park, where she encounters a serial killer and a strong, determined woman, Heath Jarrod, much like herself. Heath, a former ice climber now confined to a wheelchair after a near-fatal fall, feels depressed, isolated and helpless. She's camping in the national park with her physician, who's also her aunt, when a pair of battered young girls, two of three missing from a nearby religious retreat, appear at the campsite. Heath and Anna at first dislike one another, but join forces to break the silence enforced by the retreat's domineering head and discover why the youngsters vanished, who took them, where they were and what happened to the third girl. Barr skillfully weaves contemporary issues of parental responsibility, religious and political separatism, and sexual abuse into her harrowing story. She carefully sets the scene in the first part of the book, which builds to a spectacular climax that pits Anna against evil incarnate. Noted for her precise plotting and atmospheric descriptions of nature, Barr again proves her skill in putting believable characters in peril against a backdrop of breathtaking scenery.
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