In this book, Nevada Barr goes back and tells the story of how her park ranger/detective character Anna Pigeon, first became involved with both the National Park service criminal investigation. The novel is set in 1995 when newly widowed Anna, fleeing the memories contained in New York City, takes a temporary position working at Glen Canyon National Recreation Area.
Anna gets to know her fellow park employees. She notices some odd behavior from some of them. Like most of these co-workers, she lives in a cabin on park property. On her first day off, Anna goes hiking alone in the park. At this point, before the park service career detailed in later books, she has little wilderness experience. She does not bring a hat or even sufficient water. Later, Anna wakes up naked in a hidden space between canyons, unsure at first of how she got there.
No one searches for Anna because her belongings have been cleared from her cabin. Her co-workers assume she decided to leave her seasonal job early. Meanwhile, Anna must struggle to survive and try to escape from her dilemma. This is made more difficult by the fact that she has a dislocated shoulder. She knows this was no accident--someone has carved the word "whore" into her thigh.
Anna finds clues which point to who threw her into the hollow. Anna must use both her wits and her physical strength to prevail against an unknown attacker and escape.
Even after she succeeds in saving herself and finding her way back to the park, Anna is not safe. The identity of her assailant still is not clear. Around the middle of the novel, Anna finds two dead men left in the wilderness, alerting her to the fact that she is facing a killer.
Best part of story, including ending:
Like Nevada Barr's previous Anna Pigeon mysteries, this novel combines a suspenseful mystery and a resourceful heroine with descriptions of the beauty of a natural park. Since Nevada Barr herself worked in the National Park Service before becoming a writer, these descriptions are based in knowledge about these places.
Best scene in story:
Anna's escape from the hollow is very exciting.
Opinion about the main character:
Anna is intelligent and strong, but not a superhero or a genius. The methods she uses to save herself are daring but also realistic.