Nevada Barr's vivid novels about National Park Service Ranger Anna Pigeon have allowed readers to take visceral tours of more U.S. national parks than most could ever arrange to visit. Anna's work, which takes her across the country, showcases the beauty and eco-systems of the National Park Service, which is celebrating its 100th anniversary this year.
"Boar Island" finds Anna on a 21-day assignment at Maine's Acadia National Park. A breath-taking look at nature's beauty and stunning vistas is standard for Barr's series with its ongoing theme of man's ruthlessness. "Boar Island" does all that, but the plot unfolds in more inside locations — a crumbling lighthouse, a deteriorating house, a local bar — with just enough jaunts to Maine's exterior to showcase the state's beauty.
Anna is accompanied to Maine by her friend Heath Jarrod, Heath's aunt Gwen Littleton and 16-year-old Elizabeth, who is Heath's adopted daughter and Anna's goddaughter. Elizabeth has been the victim of a cyber-stalker back home in Boulder, Colorado, and the family believes a trip to Maine may halt the viciousness. But it appears the stalker has followed the family.
Anna has barely had time to settle into her job when she is pulled into a murder investigation. Meanwhile, personnel problems threaten the rangers as Denise Castle launches her quiet hate campaign against Paul Barnes, her co-worker and former lover whom she cannot forgive for breaking up with her three years ago and starting a new family. Denise's life takes an unexpected turn when she finally meets her long-lost twin, Paulette Duffy, from whom she was separated as an infant. The women's relationship is strained by their past — Paulette was adopted by a family while Denise landed in various foster homes.
Barr excels in producing a nuanced view of the rangers' lives and the economic hardships the area lobstermen and their families face. The characters are as vivid and sometimes as tough and unforgiving as the Maine environment. Realistic twists enhance the story.
Barr's affection for the national parks shines in "Boar Island," making it one of the best in a series known for its gripping, precise plots.