Track of the Cat, Nevada Barr, G P Putnam's Sons, 1993, 293 pp
Summary from Goodreads:
Anna Pigeon fled the turmoil of New York to become a national park ranger, only to discover she hasn't escaped murder and violence. When a colleague is killed, claw marks on the victim's throat and paw prints around the body are too perfect to be those of an alleged killer mountain lion.
Some years ago my husband and I made a trip to Sequoia and Kings Canyon National Park in January. We thought it would be cool to see those mighty trees in the snow. It was but the snow was about 6 feet deep, it was cold, and the road into Kings Canyon was closed for the winter. We've always planned to go back in a milder season but have not done so yet.
In the gift shop of the visitor's center, I learned about Nevada Barr, who has written 18 mysteries set in United States National Parks, all featuring park ranger Anna Pigeon. I am finally getting around to starting the series.
Track of the Cat is set in Guadalupe Mountains National Park in West Texas, east of El Paso. Last year on our road trip to Houston we spotted Guadalupe Peak, the highest point in Texas. The park is home to rattlesnakes and mountain lions, heat, deserts, and a variety of pines, junipers, and several deciduous trees.
Because I'd not heard of Nevada Barr except in that gift shop, I was expecting possibly a lesser level of mystery writing. Boy, was I wrong! Anna Pigeon is now my second favorite female investigator, V I Warshawski being the first. Anna is a close second. She is just as tough, fearless, and smart as V I and as dedicated to preserving the wilderness as V I is to preserving justice for all.
In Track of the Cat, Anna discovers a dead fellow female ranger, who appears to have been attacked by a mountain lion. But Anna suspects murder as well as a scheme to justify the hunting of the lions. She faces all manner of harrowing dangers, gets her shoulder dislocated, and nearly dies twice herself. No other park officials believe her suspicions and some become suspects.
Besides great but not overly done description of nature, the suspense is riveting. My heart was literally pounding during parts of the tale. "No, Anna, don't enter that canyon!" But of course she does and lives to feature in 17 more books set in National Parks all over the country.
(Track of the Cat is available in paperback by order from Once Upon A Time Bookstore.)