The Rope by Nevada Barr

First Impressions The Rope book cover
A fast moving plot, detailed descriptions of scenery, and a high body count result in a page turner with atmosphere. Hot, dry Utah heat radiates from the pages of The Rope, a prequel in Nevada Barr’s Anna Pigeon series.

Drive-By Summary
The Glen Canyon National Recreation Area on Lake Powell promises relaxation in a sandstone setting. Not true for Anna Pigeon, the newest seasonal park employee. Anna wakes at the bottom of a solution hole, a naturally formed dry well, with a dislocated shoulder and a killer headache. Stripped of everything, even her memory, Anna gradually recalls how she arrived at the bottom of both her physical and metaphorical well. Thanks in part to a skunk she survives in true Anna Pigeon style. Upon returning to the upper world, Anna struggles to identify who trapped her in the hole. Her ordeal isn’t over, it’s not clear who she can trust, and the body count is rising.

Nevada Barr spills the fictional beans on how and, more importantly, why a thirty-five year old woman from New York City with a background in theatre transforms herself into a gun toting powerhouse of a park ranger who’s freaky good at solving murders.

My Favorite Character
Anna Pigeon, of course, in all her tough-minded, tooshie-kicking glory. Anna’s drive to conquer her demons makes her unpredictable. She’s not fearless; she’s fearful. Yet she overcomes those fears, a feat made all the more admirable as she often risks her own safety in order to assist others.

Words to Live By
Who has the chutzpa to joke about the afterlife in the face of certain death? Anna Pigeon.

Upon waking up at the bottom of the solution hole: “This is not purgatory”, she assured herself, “They don’t let Protestants in.”
And
“Women need to come to think of themselves not as victims but as dangerous”

Who might like this book
Barr’s personal experience as a park ranger infuses her descriptions with authenticity. She excels at visceral writing. While exploring how individuals and society handles violence against women, Barr also touches on mental health, self-empowerment, and environmental issues. If you like plot-driven suspense featuring a strong woman protagonist, this is a book for you.

Final Say
This prequel works as a stand-alone story. You don’t have to read the first sixteen books in order to understand what’s happening. Interested in the series? Start with the first book, Track of the Cat, winner of both the Agatha and Anthony Awards for best first mystery. Barr’s stories get darker as the series progresses, with some of the latest titles being too dark for my taste. My personal favorites were Flashback and Blind Descent because Barr made me feel like I was right next to Anna during all the action, experiencing all the adventure with none of the risk.

Hunt down The Rope today at the Bellingham Public Library.

— Suzanne

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