BOOKS CHECKED OUT | By JANET CLAPP
Our national parks are fascinating places where plants, animals, and geological or historical features are protected and set aside for the enjoyment and appreciation of all people. Many parks are areas of wilderness, filled with wild animals, difficult terrain, and sometimes deadly weather, adding an extra dimension of danger to mystery and thriller novels. Patrolling and protecting land, wildlife and cultural sites requires an array of park rangers, game wardens, Bureau of Land Management agents, and others. Below are some suspenseful titles, each the first in a series, that bring you closer to nature with these hard-working government employees.
‘Track of the Cat’
By Nevada Barr
Law enforcement park ranger Anna Pigeon moves around to different national parks. “A high percentage of National Park Service employees were summer seasonals…they left jobs and homes and husbands and wives for the privilege of living in a dormitory and working for six dollars and fifty-four cents an hour, no retirement, no benefits, and rent deducted automatically. Many hoped, one day, to become permanent but the openings were few and closely guarded by tangled thickets of red tape.” In the Guadalupe Mountains National Park, Texas, Pigeon’s current assignment is to search for signs of mountain lions. Instead, what she discovers is a dead colleague. “Soon stars would begin to appear in the silver-gray ribbon of sky overhead. Before the shadowy tracks vanished in the growing gloom, she clicked a couple pictures of the [paw] prints and one last shot of the body.” Because Pigeon believes the death was not caused by a lion, she tries to unearth the truth. As the series develops, so does Barr’s writing, Pigeon’s character, and the darkness of the crimes. The latest entry in the series is “Destroyer Angel.”
By C.J. Box
Joe Pickett is a Wyoming game warden. “A game warden in the field rarely encountered anyone who wasn’t armed. Hunters, of course, had rifles, shotguns, and sidearms. Hikers, fishers, and campers all too often were packing.” When somebody ends up dead in Pickett’s backyard, he investigates and finds more trouble than he expected, including an endangered species. He is a dedicated and honest man, devoted to his wife and daughters, and sometimes put upon by the local sheriff or other powerful interests. In March, Box published “Endangered,” the newest in the series starring Pickett.
‘The Poacher’s Son’
By Paul Doiron
Mike Bowditch is a Maine game warden whose commitment to his job comes between him and his girlfriend. “I could spend the night alone in the woods searching for a dead pig and be content in a way that made absolutely no sense to anyone who wasn’t a game warden. With Sarah gone, I could love this solitary and morbid profession without excuses and not have to look too deeply into the dark of myself.” His estranged father drinks heavily and poaches. When a cop is killed, Bowditch’s father is the prime suspect. Jeopardizing his career, Bowditch is determined to prove his father’s innocence. The investigation evokes memories of his unpleasant childhood and puts him in mortal peril. The most recent in the series is “The Bone Orchard.”
By Sandi Ault
Jamaica Wild, a resource protection agent for the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) in New Mexico, is appointed liaison to the village of Tanoah Pueblo. When Wild checks a report that buffalo are loose on BLM land, she witnesses a man trampled to death, the son of her friend, mentor and medicine teacher. Tanoah Pueblo is in “Quiet Time: a holy time for the pueblo, when old ways and religious rituals were observed, and visitors and outsiders were not allowed on the reservation.” When Wild is accused of causing the stampede, she must prove her innocence by discovering a killer. The books in the series are enhanced by descriptions of life with her wolf, Mountain, and the pueblo ways that Wild is learning. It has been a few years since Ault published a Wild mystery but her website says she is in the process of writing another.
For the facts behind fiction regarding national parks, check out the title below.
‘The National Parks: America’s Best Idea: An Illustrated History’
By Dayton Duncan and Ken Burns
This informational and beautiful coffee-table book is based on Ken Burns’s documentary film series, “The National Parks: America’s Best Idea.” Illustrated with scenic and historic photographs, this book presents “the individuals and ideas that have created this uniquely American thing called the national parks, an invention we now take for granted.” In these pages, view the wide variety and often stunning beauty of “cathedrals of stone, gaily ornamented by cascading ribbons of water; arctic dreamscapes, where the rivers are made of ice; and a geological wonderland with rivers that steam, mud that boils” and more. Learn about the people of park history, some famous and others relatively unknown, including Theodore Roosevelt, John Muir, Horace Albright, and Marjory Stoneman Douglas.
April 18-25, 2015 is National Park Week. To kick it off, national parks offer free admission April 18 and 19. For details, events, and to find a national park near you, visit the National Park Service (www.nps.gov/npweek/) or the National Park Foundation (www.nationalparks.org/national-park-week).
The Rutland Free Library has the titles above and many more. What’s your favorite book set in the great outdoors?
Janet Clapp is an adult services librarian at Rutland Free Library.