Book Reviews

Book Review: Ill Wind by Nevada Barr – The Spirits are Restless

This is the third book in Nevada Barr’s mystery series about National Park Ranger Anna Pigeon. Each book takes place in a different National Park. Here, Anna is now at Mesa Verde National Park in Colorado. I found this exciting because this park is on my short list of places I want to visit.

Anna’s new assignment is a bit of a struggle. No housing is available for her, so she’s staying in the dorm with the seasonal staff. The problem is, they are young and like to party. She also has to board her cat with a friend who has the room, and misses coming back at night to peace and quiet to enjoy a glass of wine and pet her cat.

Many legends surround the Anasazi; the ancient people who once inhabited the mesas of Mesa Verde. They disappeared at some point without leaving a trace, not even bones from decomposed bodies. One of Anna’s roommates believes in the paranormal and thinks there is activity in the park related to the Anasazi. She believes the spirits are angry about a new water line that’s being put in and the digging that is going on. When people begin getting violently ill after visiting the Park, Anna is convinced there’s an explanation that isn’t paranormal. However, there is so much going on that she has trouble finding the time to do a proper investigation.

When a little girl dies after visiting the Mesa, Anna becomes more determined to find out what’s been going on. Her fellow ranger, Stacy Meyers, is no help. He was near catatonic during the carry-out of the young girl. There’s an attraction there, but Stacy is married and Anna still hasn’t worked through all of her own problems. It is all for naught, anyway, as Anna discovers Stacy’s body in one of the Kivas near where all the illnesses have happened.

With a Park Ranger dead, the FBI steps in. If you’ve read A Superior Death, Fred Stanton is a familiar character. There also seems to be some attraction going on between him and Anna, so I suspect this won’t be the last time he appears in the series. He and Anna team up here to figure out what is going on.

Ill Wind is not a breakneck thriller. This novel plods along, with many descriptions of the environment and setting. I enjoy it because these settings fascinate me. I’d love to visit here. When Anna needs time to think she spends time just driving around and the park is described for the reader. Anna is also still working through grief over the death of her husband many years before. She diligently calls her sister, Molly, once a week. Molly is a psychiatrist but comes off fairly flippant with her sister. Still, Molly has been worrying about Anna for quite some time and pulls no punches when challenging Anna about what’s really going on. Part of the problem for Anna is she’s also grieving losing a good friend in Christina and her daughter. For the first two books, the three formed a sort of family, but Anna felt she wasn’t being fair to Christina by holding her back from having a relationship. There are many emotions going on, and Anna seems to have a love/hate relationship with solitude.

Nevada Barr is a former Ranger herself, so the descriptions of what Anna’s life is like outside of the mystery aspect rings very true. She’s law enforcement but also dealing primarily with tourists which means more educational moments instead of a heavy-handed law enforcement attitude. The characters are multi-dimensional for the most part, with good and bad sides to them. I figured out some of the “whodunit” early on, but the exact details escaped me until the end. It’s not something that I felt I could have figured out because we are learning things at the same time Anna does. I did feel like I was a bit ahead of her, though, at times.

I enjoyed Ill Wind a lot. For me, the mystery was secondary to the great setting. I liked the character development Anna experiences here as everything seems to be falling apart for her, but she tries to keep it together. For people who enjoy the National Parks and traveling, I think they’ll enjoy the series. If you’re looking for a fast-paced thriller, that’s not what this is about.

Previous book in the series:

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