Reviewed by Kristin
Ever since I began reading Nevada Barr’s mysteries set in U.S. national parks, I’ve been hoping that she would write one based in Acadia National Park. It’s been twenty-three years since I’ve been there, but I opened Boar Island eagerly. Set mainly on the rocky islands off the coast of Maine, this latest entry in the Anna Pigeon series kept me turning the pages.
The action begins in Colorado where Anna’s young friend Elizabeth has become the victim of a vicious cyber bully. (Elizabeth and her paraplegic mother Heath were recently seen in an another book: Destroyer Angel.) Deciding that the best way to deal with the bully is to remove Elizabeth from the situation, Heath and her Aunt Gwen decide that they will go along to Acadia as Anna is about to take a three week position as acting chief ranger. The park itself presents physical challenges, especially for Heath using her motorized wheelchair that she has dubbed “Robo-butt” or her prototype mechanical skeleton support nicknamed “Dem Bones”.
Unfortunately, even with parental limitations on electronic devices, Elizabeth’s cyber stalker still manages to contact her. Could it be possible that someone followed them from Colorado to Maine in order to torment Elizabeth? Determining jurisdiction for internet based crime is always difficult, and Anna finds that local law enforcement agencies are reluctant to take charge of an investigation.
Alternating chapters bring in the story of Denise, an Acadian park ranger who has recently been dumped by Peter, a senior ranger, in favor of the much younger Lily. Denise tries to hide her jealousy over Peter and Lily’s baby, Olivia, but she yearns for a child of her own. Denise soon finds a long lost family member who sets her upon a journey of self-discovery and reinvention.
Although I enjoyed the picturesque Maine setting of the book, Acadia National Park wasn’t as big of a presence as other parks in earlier books. The waves crashing into Thunder Hole are mentioned briefly, but more descriptions of the sunrise on top of Cadillac Mountain, the pink granite of Otter cliffs, or even the variety of hiking trails would have painted a more scenic picture of the park. Since I have visited Acadia, I am sure that I was filling in some of the gaps with my own memories. Other readers might not be so fortunate, and I know the thrill of visiting other parks vicariously through Barr’s descriptions in other books in the series.
The two storylines eventually come together as Barr deftly weaves the threads bringing relationships and hidden actions to light. One particular character begins to show possible signs of mental instability, and Barr keeps the reader guessing for a while—does this character have a legitimate complaint against others or is it all in their mind? Another character acts in a very irrational manner as well, taking drastic actions to defend their family against a perceived threat. Parts of the mysteries are known to the reader, but not revealed to Anna and her cohorts. Other parts are kept a mystery until the very end. Full of suspense, family and nature, fans of Anna Pigeon should enjoy this latest trek to the far northeastern United States.