Track of the Cat

Book #12 in the A to Z Mystery Tour.

Rating: 4.5 out of 5.
Track of the Cat book cover

Book #1 of the Anna Pigeon Mysteries – 1993

OK, so I’m a little late to the party on this author; I can’t speak to Nevada Barr’s entire body of work, but Track of the Cat is quite the mystery debut.

Ms. Barr uses language wisely; her lyrical descriptions of the West Texas desert – in the heat of day, at sunset, at moonrise – are the only passages in which she is extravagant with her words. Sky, trees, animal sounds, and scents are explored as Park Ranger and Law Enforcement Officer Anna Pigeon, a transplanted New York widow, takes it upon herself to find out what killed her fellow Rangers after finding their bodies in Guadalupe Mountains National Park.

The pacing is perfect, and ends in a confrontation with one of the most despicable criminals I’ve ever read – which made the ending so satisfying. There are one or two plot holes, including a dinner party that just dropped out of the sky with either no prior mention or a mention so far back in the narrative that it was camouflaged. Without this confusing event, I would be reviewing a five star book. I took away a half-star, but I will be reading more in this series. Anna Pigeon is one of the most intriguing protagonists I’ve met in a mystery series, and I can’t wait to see where she goes. I did guess the killer, but the book is so beautifully crafted overall that I don’t count this against the author.

Other reviewers have classified this as a cozy mystery, but I disagree. Anna is too much of a badass, and I can’t reconcile the unforgiving desert landscape with tea, humor, or any of the other cozy hallmarks. Neither is it a police procedural; Anna operates in the margins of the law, and without the support of her department. I guess I’ll just call it a mystery series; maybe it’s got a sub-genre of its own. Desert Mystery?

Regardless, this is a book to be savored. Take your time as you visit the desert with Anna. Be careful on the trail.

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