Anna Pigeon has encountered danger, excitement, romance and sometimes personal scandal in her many assignments as a law-enforcement ranger in America’s national parks.
In THE ROPE, we meet a much younger and more vulnerable Anna, who has fled Manhattan and her profession in Broadway theater after her husband Zach dies in an accident. In an attempt to leave that tragedy behind, she has sought work involving mindless, physical labor in a brand-new setting, as far from the city as she can get. She finds a job for the summer of 1995 as a seasonal employee of the Glen Canyon National Recreational Area in Utah. She and her roommate, Jenny, clean up beaches and campsites of human waste and detritus, taking water samples in the finger bays and shoreline camping areas, testing for pollution in Lake Powell. She shares quarters with other nomadic seasonal workers in the rustic National Park Service personnel housing.
"THE ROPE may be one of the most spine-chilling nature versus human endurance tales Barr has produced."
After 10 days on the job, Anna takes her first two-day break but fails to return, causing her fellow workers to idly gossip and joke about this unusually quiet, withdrawn woman who is older than the usual seasonal worker. Her roommate, Jenny, mentions that her meager belongings have been cleared out, so kidnapping by drunken college students can be scratched off the list. They assume that she, like many others before her, has just bailed out of a job too hard or nasty to continue. The next day, though, Jenny discovers that some of Anna’s most personal items remain in a drawer: a picture of her late husband, her makeup, tampons, deodorant --- things that no woman would leave without. That’s when they begin to worry.
While her co-workers are casually jesting about reasons for her disappearance, Anna is regaining consciousness at the bottom of a natural phenomenon called a “solution hole,” one of hundreds of bottle-like rock formations caused by eons of water and wind erosion found in the Glen Canyon area surrounding Lake Powell. She finds herself naked and feeling as if she has been drugged. There is a bloody lump on her head, and the word WHORE has been carved onto her thigh. An excruciatingly painful dislocated shoulder makes trying to climb up the 90-degree wall towering over her head to a narrow slit far above impossible. As she gradually comes to realize that she may not be completely alone, or at least not undiscovered, her terror builds. When she finds the newly buried body of a young woman in a recess of her underground prison, panic sets in.
In the days that follow, Anna must use her wits to figure out how she got where she is, who is leaving food and drugged water while she sleeps, and steeling her nerve to find a way to overcome her invisible captor if she lives long enough to meet face to face.
Nevada Barr is a master of suspense and has created many harrowing scenarios for Anna in 17 bestselling thrillers. She has survived mining tunnel cave-ins, submersion beneath Lake Michigan and forest fires, and has even been stalked through a winter blizzard by a madman. She has learned in her career as a ranger that she can overcome any obstacle nature puts in her path, but that man is the ultimate enemy.
THE ROPE may be one of the most spine-chilling nature versus human endurance tales Barr has produced. For a lesser person than Anna, this initiation into survival against the elements and human depravity would have her fleeing back to civilization and into the arms of her sister, never to return. We all know that she will survive because she has gone on to an illustrious career in the Forest Service. As a fledgling Forest Service worker, Anna learns that she never again needs to play the victim; she can triumph over anything man or nature throws at her.
Reviewed by Roz Shea on January 19, 2012