National Park Service Ranger Anna Pigeon returns from a
harrowing experience in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula (WINTER
STUDY) in a fragile mental state. Her killing, albeit in
self-defense, of a mentally deranged serial murderer has left her
with a full-blown case of Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder. Her
superiors at the Park Service have ordered her to take some R&R
time to heal her emotional wounds, and her new sheriff/minister
husband, Paul, couldn’t agree more.
The almost-newlyweds decide on a whitewater rafting trip through
Santa Elena Canyon on the Rio Grande River where it creates the
border between Texas and Mexico through Big Bend National Park.
They could make the trip with fellow rangers, but Anna wants to
remove herself from the uniforms and shop talk. So the pair opts
for a tourist trip with a seasoned river guide, Carmen, and four
college students on a year-end outing.
The outing begins on a light note as the rafters attempt to
rescue a hapless, starving cow that strayed across the Rio Grande
and is trapped on a cliff because of high water. In their efforts
to lead the cow down to safe ground, one of the river rafters
discovers what appears to be the body of a pregnant Mexican woman
floating in the reeds on the American side of the Rio Grande.
Meanwhile, a high-level political conference is taking place at
Big Bend Headquarters where the popular mayor of Houston is
preparing to announce her candidacy for governor. She has arrived
with her full entourage of security detail and the ever-present
These two events will converge with the turmoil of the Rio
Grande at full flood stage caused by an early monsoon season storm
in ways that dwarf the horrors of Anna’s encounter on Lake
Superior the preceding winter. The group’s rescue attempt of
the woman attracts a sniper who begins to pick off the rafters one
BORDERLINE, a title that describes not only the geographical
location but also the state of Anna’s mind, races from page
to page with the pace of a raft spinning out of control in a raging
flood. Determined to save the life of a helpless infant to assuage
her dark feelings for taking another, less innocent life, Anna
embarks on often perilous and dangerous feats of bravado,
endangering not only her life but that of her husband Paul as
Anna must make some tough decisions about her future in the Park
Service. Due to her medical leave of absence and her erratic
behavior, she is relegated to a mere civilian by investigators of
the crimes, leaving her feeling even more frustrated and depressed.
It is a time of reckoning for Ranger Anna Pigeon. Should she retire
to Mississippi with her husband Paul, or continue in a career she
has always loved but that may no longer accept her?
Mother Nature, immigration politics and heroism combine to make
BORDERLINE one of Nevada Barr’s most compelling suspense
novels in this always eagerly awaited series.
Reviewed by Roz Shea on December 22, 2010