Customer Reviews: Hard Truth (An Anna Pigeon Novel)
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on August 4, 2013
This is not a new book but a reissue of the 2005 book. Having read it already, I sent it back.
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on August 17, 2013
Now 50, National Parks Ranger Anna Pigeon no longer has the strength or flexibility she had when Nevada Barr created Anna as a young woman. But what she's lost in youth she's gained In a myriad of other ways and all of them are brought out in this
book in Barr's series. Better yet, in this sit-on-the-edge-of-your-chair mix of mystery and psychological terror is another stalwart character confined to a wheelchair and bitter, yet inexorably bound in a suspense no one could anticipate against the grandeur of the Colorado parks system.

How Barr can sustain such wonderful character, description and in-your-face situations so adeptly is a testament to the author's mastery of something that elevates mere genre into something far more. Don't expect to pick this novel up and just casually set it aside. You won't be able to.

(Note: I didn't realize this was a reissue. Fortunately, I hadn't read it before, so my rating stands. But I can understand why people who previously DID read it would feel a little duped. Understand, though, that it's not a reflection of the author but of the publishing house and an unfortunate practice that's fooled all of us at one time or another. Let them know you're angry, but don't blame Barr. They have little control over those decisions, if any.)
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on March 13, 2006
I'm an avid fan of Nevada Barr. Always chomping at the bits for her newest book to be published. But this book was quite different than her others. Too many gruesome scenes. I enjoy her other style of writing. But certainly not this kind. I was disgusted with it--child abuse, a disgruntled paraplegic with a continual bad attitude? A battered kitten who is later bludgeoned to bits in her home? Nailing live mice to the wall to slowly die in pain? Sorry but reading this kind of material isn't exactly what I call an enjoyable leisure reading. I'm very disappointed in you Nevada.

Perhaps the next one will be more like your old style of writing, with adventure and suspense in the great outdoors, not something along the mentality of the Texas chainsaw massacre.
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on March 29, 2005
Unfortunately Nevada Barr seems to be going the way of a lot of popular authors, writing books that are not enjoyable to read. It's too bad, since I really enjoyed the other books in the series. This one had too much perversion and I skimmed most of the book. I hope she gets out of this dark mood and starts writing in the style of the earlier Anna Pigeon books. I liked the light mystery and descriptions of the Parks that made the books different and interesting. After reading this one I don't even want to visit the park it's set in.
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on February 20, 2015
Nevada Barr writes fast paced, exciting, believable stories and I cannot put one down once I have started it. This story grabbed me, as usual, and didn't let up until the end. If you haven't read the Anna Pigeon stories, you are missing out on some great National Parks info and exciting times!
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TOP 500 REVIEWERon March 18, 2014
Anna Pigeon has just taken a job as a District Manager of Rocky Mountain National Park. She senses something radically wrong with the atmosphere in the park. The rangers are disheartened by a failed search-and-rescue mission involving three little girls who went missing.

What I liked most about this book were the characters, starting with Anna.

Anna exhibits her usual wilderness survival skills in and her usual stubborn unwillingness to die at the hands of a creepy killer. She fights like a polecat even while wounded. Her ability to keep fighting against all odds is all the more endearing because she's a small, lightweight woman who boasts no special martial arts training.

Anna shares the limelight with another remarkable woman in this book. Heath Jarrod lost the use of her legs as the result of a climbing accident. When we meet her she's wallowing in self-pity and alcohol, but this book is going to make a superhero of her. It's satisfying to watch her overcome her fears – and outmaneuver evil people from her wheelchair. Heath has a charming and resourceful dog, too. Heath and her dog reappear on a Nevada Barr's latest book, Destroyer Angel, so it's good to make their acquaintance here.

Anna and Heath are both middle-aged, which makes their feisty behavior all the more enjoyable.

The story takes us inside a fanatical religious sect that practices an unsavory form of polygamy. The three missing little girls belong to this group.

The Anna Pigeon novels always involve violent confrontations, and I can usually handle it, but this time out the violence was so sick I found it hard to take. I got through it, though. Now I'm forging ahead to the next book.
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on November 5, 2010
I am a longtime fan and threw this book out after reading. It has torture, pedophilia, and the holocaust....what a disturbing, disappointing book.
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on February 19, 2012
I have read every book in this series and this may be my last. I always try to keep the next book on my iPhone and can count on it for an interesting, breezy read when I have downtime. It was such a departure for her style and themes - where is Anna's support system? Paul? Molly? Why is this book going into deeply violent and disturbing crimes but treated more as a plot device? And what's with the polygamist theme on top of it? Oh and the national parks take a big step back in importance and context.

I hate to write this review but honestly I was so surprised by my reaction to this book that it took me a while to realize how awful it is. Left a bad taste and I do really want to read more Nevada Barr.
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on February 17, 2007
There are 76 other reviews out there as I type this, most rehearsing the plot fairly well, most agreeing that this is one dark, horrible, terrifying book, so I'll skip that part, since this is indeed one dark, horrible, terrifying book. I took it to the beach planning on "beach reading" and was scarred for days. It's easily the equivalent in mystery of Hambly's Fever Season, or, in more literary fiction, Morrison's Beloved: it really is that frightening.

The issue, I think, is whether Barr gets something, and gives us something, out of all that darkness and horror and violence that makes it worthwhile. That is, is there a real reason for it? Or is it just gratuitous nasties, a bad case of let's see which author can out-gruesome the others? I think it's the former, even though I don't see myself re-reading this one for a long time. What does Barr get? Look at the title. Like Morrison, she gets a hard truth about what we're capable of, and she gives it to us.

Which truth? I hear you cry. The one the movies lie about, the one soldiers learn in SERE school, the one none of us wants to believe: that if someone hurts us enough, we will do anything, and become anything, the torturer wants of us. We will bark like dogs, lick our urine off the floor, make love to our torturer and lavish him with love and gratitude for not hurting us more, wait for his permission to escape by killing ourselves and thank him for the mercy...and mean it. There is very little in us, or in most of us, anyway, that can't be destroyed by someone willing to take on the job in a serious way: not our loves, our identities, certainly not our human dignity. That triumph-of-the-human-spirit thing is by and large the exception and not the rule. What the children do in this book--refuse to give up their torturer because they believe in his power over them, leave their friend in his grip to save themselves--is what most of us would do. It's no wonder we don't like to hear it.

That's an awful thing to say, which is why I'm scarred by the book. But I believe it's basically true, the hard truth, one of the hardest. It seems that Barr knows it, and I suspect that maybe she's fed up with all the narratives in which the heroes overcome the unspeakable to triumph over the villain with a couple of choice bon mots. Yes, everyone at the end of this book is damaged--Ranger Pigeon the least so--but they would be, and they should be, though the villain is defeated and there is some hope of redemption nonetheless.

So, you know...the issue of the search dogs is a good point, and if you feel the world's bad enough without dwelling on how bad it can get, you really shouldn't read this. There are some pretty nifty baby wolves, though.
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VINE VOICEon July 22, 2005
One of the recent trends of the last couple of years I have noticed is the high number of books using the concept of offshoot Mormon groups doing bad things. While some authors take the idea in different directions, most seem to use the same basic template. An abusive man physically strong in stature with a deep voice leads the group, the abused women (often sisters from the same family) are all fearful and married to the man and the children are abused. Everything is done in the name of religion, which allows the author to lecture the reader about the evils of religion gone amok. This is exactly what Nevada Barr does in her latest offering, "Hard Truth."

Newly married Ranger Anna Pigeon has been assigned to Rocky Mountain National Park in Colorado. Beyond the usual park problems, the staff has been severely stressed by the recent disappearance of three young girls while in the park from a nearby breakaway Mormon sect. The girls, with their youth leader, were left in the park while other members of the group hiked out. The young girls disappeared and despite constant searches and investigations into everyone's background, especially the youth leader, the three girls have not been found.

Then two of the girls stumble out of the woods at the Sprague Lake Handicamp and straight into the arms of a paraplegic and her elderly Aunt. Heath, a climber, has been confined to a wheelchair since falling and receiving severe injuries approximately nine months earlier on Longs Peak. Despite the fact that she is lucky to even be alive according to everyone else, she doesn't think so. Mad at the world for her injury and her own body for failing to heal so that she can walk again, she has slid into a deep angry depression that even her no nonsense Aunt, Gwendolyn Littleton, can't get her out. But when confronted by two children, clearly deeply traumatized on a physical as well as an emotional level, Heath is forced to reassess her life.

Coming from opposite ends of the spectrum in personality and motivation, Heath and Anna have a tenuous working relationship as they begin to investigate what happened. Heath exploits the bond she made with one child while Anna exploits her position as District Ranger to investigate a case that the sect does not want investigated in any way. A third child is still missing and both Anna and Heath wonder if she is still alive. What happened out there in the woods? And for Anna, she also wonders why the return of the children has coincided with other strange events in the park.

This isn't the first time Nevada Barr has considered the concept of pure evil and no doubt won't be the last. Once again she tries to define it, to show its human face, to explain it, and deal with an evil that is almost perfect in its ability. As such, much of what she has written before, Molly's lectures and advice, etc. is dusted off and placed before readers once again. This lends a certain redundancy to the work, as much of what is in this novel seems to have had the identifying names changed and little else.

Because of that fact, some factual location errors, and the for the most part stereotypical characters, the read is average at best. While the tale itself is interesting and does hold reader attention, the noted flaws remain prevalent from start to finish. Of course, like everything else in life, your experience may vary.

Kevin R. Tipple © 2005
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