Thanks to Amazon Vine I've just read Nevada Barr's new novel coming out January 17, 2012. The Rope is a prequel to the whole series.
In this story Anna Pigeon is 35 and she is still numb with grief at the loss of her husband, Zach, in an accident she witnessed in NYC. She has a satisfying career as a stage manager on Broadway, but she decides it might help to take some time completely away from everything familiar. She takes a summer job at Glen Canyon National Park, stationed at Dangling Rope Marina on Lake Powell.
Anna and her housemate Jenny work hard at their job clearing the area of human waste, and trying to educate vacationers about the proper way to handle toileting (to put it nicely) in the great outdoors. Jenny likes Anna but can't make a connection. Then Anna disappears. She went hiking alone on her day off and accidentally found herself in a peck of trouble.
In this story we see the making of the strong, independent woman we've grown to love over the years. She enters this summer job weak, too thin, and grief stricken. She ends the summer strong, resilient, and determined to become a national park ranger; I don't think that's giving anything away.
Meanwhile, the characters she meets and the trials and dangers she withstands are engrossing. This is an old-fashioned page turner. Anna learns that the area isn't desolate; it has its own life and beauty. I discovered another place I want to see for myself. I also came away with a new respect for her character now that I know the beginning of her story.