Track of the Cat
This is the first of by now 15 Anne Pigeon novels, first published in 1993, and I am glad I could start with the very beginning of the series. It is usually the best, with rare exceptions to the rule.
I found the book in the “western” department of a small town bookstore in Rocky Mountain National Park, and readily bought it, because, like her colleague C.J. Box, Nevada Barr places her mysteries in National Parks with park ranger Anne Pigeon as her hero, a likeable counterpart to Joe Pickett, the game warden.
Pigeon has fled from her troubled life in the big cities to the solitude of a rarely visited park in remote West Texas. With her backpack she roams the lonely trails of the park, in harmony with nature, when she finds a female colleague brutally mutilated and killed on her path. The corpse shows all the signs of a lethal attack by a mountain lion, and the hunt can begin.
But Anne has second thoughts, has studied mountain lion lore and feels more than knows - her female instincts?- that something is very wrong.
When she sets out on another control trip through the wilderness, she slips on a steep trail and only narrowly escapes a fall to death in a canyon. In the hospital she is visited by all the members of her ranger station and everybody seems to be happy with her rescue. Everybody? Then another colleague is found dead in his tent, killed by snakes he has collected.
Unfortunately Barr now distrusts her narrative skills and leaves the reader completely in the dark about her heroine´s thoughts and plans and we find ourselves and Anne in the middle of a violent showdown she again only just survives. Anne has to suffer an awful lot to save her beloved mountain lion, that is for sure, but the reader does not really want to follow her martyrdom any further. Sorry.