Review

Hard Truth

by Nevada Barr



Nevada Barr's latest novel in her intriguing mysteries based in
National Parks comes closer to a thriller than a whodunit. The
drama unfolds in the Majestic Rocky Mountain National Park as
Ranger Anna Pigeon is installed as the first woman district ranger
in the park's history. It is a career challenge she can't turn
down, despite her recent marriage to her sheriff husband, Paul, in
Mississippi, and she undertakes it with mixed emotions.

During her second day on the job, Anna is confronted with the
arrival of two disheveled, terrified young teenaged girls who
stumble into the handicapped camping area and are rescued by a
paraplegic woman, Heath Jarrod. The children, traumatized and
incoherent, turn to Heath as a savior of sorts, which draws this
woman, who is coming to grips with her own devastating loss in a
climbing mishap, into a dangerous and grisly plot. Three girls had
been missing from a religious retreat for over a month; now two
have turned up in the middle of the night and one is still
unaccounted for. Ranger Pigeon, who had been merely briefed on the
local rangers' efforts in searching for the missing girls, is
suddenly central to unraveling the mystery of where they have been
and what has happened to them during their absence.

The search for truth leads Anna into the Rockies back country, and
Heath Jarrod to a polygamist sect commune just outside the park
boundaries, headed by a messianic leader. Jarrod's wounded psyche
and ravaged body are put to greater tests than even her career as a
mountain climber had offered. Anna is confronted with the unholiest
of horrors, a psychopathic serial killer intent on recruiting and
training followers of his dark art.

Not since BLOOD LURE has there been a tale so spine-tingling as
Anna's pursuit of an elusive evil masquerading as good. HARD TRUTH
is perhaps the darkest book in Barr's series, which always offers
enough plot twists and as-real-as-it-gets locations in our nation's
glorious national parks to keep the pages flying. I'm fortunate to
number among my friends several National Forest and National Parks
rangers who devour these books like hot dogs at a picnic. They
appreciate the authenticity of the settings and the insider humor
of the realities of the low pay, rugged living conditions, and
camaraderie between park service employees. I've heard more than
one of them complain of lost sleep or having to hastily spirit the
book into a desk drawer because they simply couldn't put it down.
Barr, who herself has been a career park ranger, knows where a lot
of bodies are buried, both literally and figuratively, which adds
to the stark reality of her hair-raising plots.

In HARD TRUTH, Barr introduces a richly defined character through
Heath Jarrod, a woman about whom we care and wonder what will
happen in her future. Usually, Barr neatly ties up the loose ends
at the end of each sojourn in yet another National Park, although
she has continued secondary characters in the past. We can only
hope that, in future books, we learn how Heath comes to terms with
her paraplegia and other elements that arise from the plot.

Reviewed by Roz Shea on January 22, 2011

Hard Truth
by Nevada Barr

  • Publication Date: March 24, 2005
  • Genres: Fiction, Mystery
  • Hardcover: 336 pages
  • Publisher: Putnam Adult
  • ISBN-10: 0399152415
  • ISBN-13: 9780399152412