Thursday, October 19, 2006

Book 91: Ill Wind

Ill Wind is the third mystery written by Nevada Barr featuring U.S. Park Ranger Anna Pigeon. After solving murders in Track of the Cat and A Superior Death, Anna is now working as a Ranger in the Mesa Verde National Park in Colorado. She is in her forties, a widow, has a little bit of a late night drinking problem, but is passionate and skilled in what she does as a Park Ranger. Ill Wind starts out without revealing the primary mystery of the novel. The possible bad guys are all presented first, though some of them do not seem very bad. Anna is called to get involved in a domestic dispute because in the Park the Rangers have to act as police, but this is not a novel about a domestic dispute. Is this storyline misdirection or is there something else going on? When a young girl dies up on the Cliffs because she can't breathe the assumption is that it is her asthma and being up at 7000 feet. Then another death. Finally a third. Anna figures out the timing of the deaths and starts investigating.

The thing about having a Park Ranger as the heroine of a novel is that the setting will always be part of the story. It matters that this story is set in Mesa Verde just as the settings of the two previous mysteries mattered. It is park of the story and wrapped up in the story and it allows Nevada Barr to give very scenic and natural descriptions and get murders out of the city and into a completely different environment, which in turn gives these books a completely different feel than one might expect from a urban murder mystery. Barr tells the story well and while she may have tipped her hand early, I know I did not pick up on the true culprit. That's a positive because up until the Reveal I felt that nearly anyone could be at fault.

A good, reasonably short mystery.

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