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Blind Descent


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YA-When Anna Pigeon learns that fellow park ranger Frieda Dierkz lies injured within the depths of Lechugilla Cavern, she overcomes her claustrophobia and wills herself into the cave, along with the official rescue team. Working against her anxiety, Anna concentrates on the difficulties of moving the woman through passages and over formations while another fear begins to surface. Frieda is sure that an attempt was made on her life and rigged to look like an accident. Her apprehensions prove correct when she is killed by a fall that almost takes Anna's life as well. Left with just a shred of information, Anna sets out to find the killer. Barr brings the intricate, fascinating, and deadly underground world of spelunking into close and intimate focus using Anna's divergent emotions of awe and near terror as she works her way through the total blackness. Readers are immersed in the setting, and Anna's claustrophobia, tangibly intense at times, keeps the tension of the plot tautly controlled. She pushes herself to the limit, determined to solve the mysteries of death and dirty dealings that appear to center on the importance and fate of Lechugilla Cavern. While about half of the story takes place above ground, the intense moments occur in the deep orifices below. Barr has created a variety of characters in the rescue team, each distinct in personality and style. All of the twists and turns of the cave and the plot finally come together in an action-packed ending.-Pam Johnson, Fairfax County Public Library, VA

An underground classic? Barr's popular park ranger, Anna Pigeon, investigates murder in New Mexico's Carlsbad Caverns.

Early in this sixth tale in Barr's evocative and suspenseful series (after 1997's Endangered Species), national park ranger Anna Pigeon is summoned from duty in Colorado to New Mexico's Carlsbad Caverns. A woman caver seriously injured while exploring the nearby Lechuguilla cave is a friend who has asked specifically that Anna help in her rescue. Anna has faced everything from forest fires to deep-water dives with equanimity, but claustrophobia has so far kept her above-ground. "A chilling image filled Anna's mind: herself crouched and whimpering, fear pouring like poison through her limbs, shutting down her brain as the cave closed in around her." Fully aware of her vulnerability, Anna nevertheless takes the plunge, leading readers through a truly harrowing series of tight squeezes. Barr is so good at involving us in Anna's terror that, when Anna finally reaches the surface again, we share her "unadulterated joy. Even the dirt smelled alive." Above ground, Anna quickly becomes involved in pursuing possible links between two murders and soon finds herself a rifleman's target. A sneaky suspicion starts to grow as we share the progress of her investigation of possible suspects within the sharply sketched community of cavers and National Park Service bureaucrats. Barr couldn't possibly ask Anna‘and us‘to go back underground again, could she? Wouldn't that be more than courage and credulity could bear? When it happens, of course, it seems inevitable and thoroughly satisfying‘thanks to the writing and plotting talents of a master. Mystery Guild main selection; author tour. (Mar.)

"Barr's description of this Stygian underworld--so beautiful, so mysterious and so treacherous--have a stunning visceral quality, largely because of her heroine's affinity with the natural world. Strong, independent and proud of it, Anna is less appreciative ofnature's higher orders. ('If she had a tail, ' she says of her edgy encounter with another caver, 'it would have been lashing.') Herabrasiveness may bind Anna to the subtler signals of human behavior, but alone in the darkness, she can see clear to the heart of thematter." -- "The New York Times Book Review"

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