It's fall in the Sierra Mountains, and Anna Pigeon is slinging hash in Yosemite National Park's historic Ahwahnee Hotel. Four young people, all seasonal park employees, have disappeared, and two weeks of work by crack search-and-rescue teams have failed to turn up a single clue; investigators are unsure as to whether the four went AWOL for reasons of their own - or died in the park. Needing an out-of-park ranger to work undercover, Anna is detailed to dining room duty; but after a week of waiting tables, she knows the missing employees are only the first indication of a sickness threatening the park. Her twenty-something roommates give up their party-girl ways and panic; her new restaurant colleagues regard her with suspicion and fear. Yet when Anna's life if threatened and her temporary supervisor turns a deaf ear, she follows the scent of evil, taking a solo hike up a snowy trial to the high country, seeking answers. What awaits her is a nightmare of death and greed - and perhaps her final adventure.
The serene snow country suddenly turns deadly for Anna Pigeon in Barr's riveting 12th novel to feature the intrepid National Park Service ranger (after 2003's Flashback). On assignment to locate four young park employees who went missing in a fierce storm, the 50ish Anna is working undercover as a waitress at Yosemite's Ahwahnee Hotel, where she must deal not only with an exacting supervisor and a surly head chef but also share a dorm with 20-something roommates. Evoking the stunning beauty of the park in winter, Barr contrasts the relative safety of Yosemite Valley with the surrounding Sierra Nevada mountains into which Anna treks in search of the missing kids. Danger crackles like ice on the frozen lake where she finds a partially submerged plane loaded with drugs. Attacked by vicious poachers, Anna flees into the absolute, terrifying darkness for an ordeal that will keep readers eagerly turning the pages. So well done is this nail-biting sequence that the resolution can come only as something of a letdown. Barr has a true gift for outdoor writing, using the lush snow as natural cover for the violent life in the wild as well as among the park's human custodians. Anyone contemplating a nice winter hike will think twice after entering the wilderness with Anna, but her fans always come back for more. FYI:Winner of both Agatha and Anthony awards, Barr is also the author of an inspirational memoir, Seeking Enlightenment... Hat by Hat (2003).