The Track of the Cat by Nevada Barr (Anna Pigeon #1)

Publication Info: Published 1993 by Avon. I read the Kindle edition courtesy of my local library. Other editions available.

Summary: Forest ranger Anna Pigeon is hiking the wild Texas back country looking for signs of elusive mountain lions, when she stumbles across the dead body of one of her co-workers. Anna barely knew the dead woman, Sheila Drury, as the deceased had only been with the park service about seven months. Anna calls for help, but does some preliminary investigating while waiting. Initial evidence points to an attack by a mountain lion. There is scat at the site and teeth marks on the victim. But something niggles just beyond the edges of Anna’s conscious thought processes. She has a feeling that this is not a mountain lion attack and is determined to figure it out.

Anna is even more sure that human forces are behind Sheila’s death after two more incidents in the park, one of which almost leaves her dead.

Comments: After reading Nevada Barr’s What Rose Forgot, I decided to go back and read some of the author’s earlier books. I had read a few of the Anna Pigeon series many years ago, but at this point, I have no idea which ones, so I started at the beginning with The Track of the Cat.

I have to confess that I was very surprised at how well written this book was, despite the fact that it was only the author’s second published novel. But the biography on her webpage revealed that she had many years of writing experience before she published Bittersweet in 1983. That experience shows in Barr’s ability to delve deep into her character’s motivations and thoughts, as well as her descriptions of the environment. The author obviously has a deep understanding and love of the high desert. Being an east coast transplant to the arid west, it took me a while to see beyond hot, dry and dusty. Barr’s descriptions brought me back to my first astonishing views of the desert in bloom and the realization of the complexities of life in that biome.

As for the plot, I got a bit lost in the muddle of secondary characters, which left me feeling a bit let down by the ending. But as this is the first in a long, successful mystery series, I am confident that some of the rougher edges in plotting will smooth out over time.

Highly recommended for readers of Mysteries, particularly those that take place in the desert southwest.

My Rating: 4 STARS

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