High Country

(Critical Survey of Contemporary Fiction)

In Nevada Barr’s twelfth Anna Pigeon mystery, the park ranger has left fiance Paul Davidson back home in Mississippi and come to Yosemite National Park, where she is working undercover as a waitress in the beautiful Ahwahnee Hotel. Four young park employees have been missing for two weeks, and Anna has been brought in to discover whether they have been killed or simply run away. In between shifts in the historic restaurant, Anna explores the natural wonders of the Park as she tries to befriend the two twenty-something roommates of one of the missing women and stay on the good side of the surly head waitress, and the brilliant and temperamental chef.

It soon becomes clear to Anna that the disappearances are connected and are probably part of a larger instability at the park. The cabin of one of the missing, a popular search-and-rescue climber, has been taken over by four men who clearly have no experience with the outdoors and who seem determined to avoid revealing anything about themselves. Nicky and Cricket, the two bus girls Anna shares her dorm room with, seem to be frightened—when they are not high on marijuana. And a conversation Anna overhears in the restroom indicates that a potential “gold rush” has captured the imagination of several employees and visitors.

When Anna unravels the clues, she finds herself alone in a remote section of the park, on the trail of murderous thieves. Discovering the nature of the “gold rush,” Anna is shot, and she herself becomes the pursued and then the pursuer in a thrilling chase. No one writes an outdoor game of cat-and-mouse like Barr does, and this sequence is as imaginative and tense and violent as one could wish. Suffice it to say that Anna survives, and uncovers a plot that is both as complicated and as simple as family ties.