I was introduced to Nevada Barr's Anna Pigeon series of books at the end of last year when I decided to read my way around the USA. Several people recommended the crime series that features park ranger, Anna Pigeon, because each book takes place in a different American national park. And so it was. I read the first two books and learnt a bit about the Guadalupe park in Texas and New Mexico and Isle Royale on Lake Superior. This time, in book three, it was the turn of the Mesa Verde national park in south western Colorado and the book was Ill Wind.
Anna has moved on from Isle Royale for personal reasons and is now settling into a new job with new colleagues. She finds herself in a bunk house situation, sharing with much younger women than herself. She's not happy. Not only are the women immature, party animals, Anna has had to board out her cat, Piedmont, as no pets are allowed.
She finds some solace in the park though. It's a fascinating place full of mystery. A native tribe known as the Anasazi had lived there and built wonderful cliff dwellings, despite the hostile environment and the difficulty of building such houses into a cliff.
Then, in the 13th. century, they suddenly disappeared without trace and no one has any idea what happened to them, although various theories abound.
Anna finds her new colleagues to be a mixed bunch. The one she feels closest to is Stacy, a male ranger who actually seems to be intelligent and thoughtful, something unusual in Anna's experience. He is married though, with a difficult homelife and he's not the only one, difficult marrital situations are two a penny in the park it seems.
When Stacy's dead body is discovered, neatly laid out in amongst the dwellings, Anna is devastated. Recovering from a drinking binge she decides to investigate herself. It seems there are mysterious goings on in the park. People have reported weird 'veil' sightings they can't explain. Anna discovers that there are an unusual number of medical rescues from a certain part of the park, all on the same day of the week. And then an asthmatic child dies as part of this anomaly and Anna realises she's on to something... but what? Nothing seems to add up or make sense and her own personal demons do not help the situation one little bit.
Well, this was another good book in this, in my view, quite unusual series. Unusual in that the mystery setting is not a huge city or a country house or whatever, but the national parks of America. I absolutely love this idea to bits and have really enjoyed the three areas I've been introduced to via these books. Saying that, I didn't find myself as fascinated by the Mesa Verde as I did the areas covered in the first two books. I don't know why, because the mystery of the disappearance of the Anasazi tribe is right up my street, and I've always been fascinated by the native American indians. Plus, Colorado is a state I've always fancied visiting but have never been fortunate enough to do so. Thus, I should have been in my element, but wasn't. But that's fine, I suspect this will be the case as I go through the books, some regions will grab me, others won't.
I think I'm rather addicted to these vintage American travel posters...
All that said, this was still a book I romped through with a great deal of pleasure. Anna is a great character, flawed, but a good ranger and always determined to get at the truth. I love her sister even though she's only ever been on the end of the phone. Hopefully we meet her in person one day. It can sometimes take a little while to get all the new characters straight - who they are, who they're married to, what their personal circumstances are, their hang-ups and so forth. But it's well worth the effort. These books are exciting, unusual, crime yarns and I'm so glad that several people recommended them and I gave them a go.
The next book in line is Firestorm, which I've heard is rather good, and it's on the shelf waiting for me for when I'm ready to read it. It's set here:
Yes... definitely addicted.