Putnam, Apr 2009, $25.95
After the tragic events at Isle Royale National Park where Ranger Anna Pigeon was forced to kill a man (see WINTER STUDY), she is on administrative leave having been diagnosed with PTSD. Needing to get away with her beloved husband, a pastor and a Law enforcement officer in Mississippi, the newlyweds go on a rafting trip not connected to the Forest Service. They plan to raft on the Rio Grande in the Big Bend National Park that borders with Mexico.
They spot a cow named Esther on top of a cliff and their group of four college students, the guide and Anna and Paul decide to rescue the animal. They get the frightened cow down the mountain and tie it onto the raft, but it overturns. One of the students finds the body of a pregnant woman trapped in branches and reeds. They free her, but she dies however Anna rescues the baby who they name Helena. Someone fires at them killing the guide and a student. Their dangerous trek back to civilization is fraught with danger. Others try to abduct the baby, but protective like a tiger Anna keeps Helena safe.
Putting aside the probability of the homicides making Anna a murder magnet, Big Bend National Park comes alive through her eyes as much as the deep caring relationship between her and Paul does even though they have spent little time together in their first year of marriage. The Mayor of Hoosier is holding court at the Big Bend Conference Center where she plans to announce her run for governor, but is distracted by her interest in Helena. Anna remains clueless why the governor like seemingly everyone else she meets is interested in the newborn. Although the infant howling in the wilderness is muted, fans will enjoy Anna’s latest adventure as there are many people involved in the mystery of the mother’s murder, but none have a motive to kill.