A couple of days ago, I wrote about the immensely satisfying end to Crooked Letter, Crooked Letter and then immediately embarked upon Track of the Cat. I liked this book and its National Park Service ranger protagonist immediately. I liked her sensibilities, her lack of judgment, her openness, her love of animals and the environment. I liked the author’s voice.
In fact, I really liked everything about this book right up until I went to turn the page… and there were no more damn pages. It ended abruptly in the middle of an action scene.
Now, I bear in mind this is a series and I have the next book right here on the Nook, queued up and ready to go. However, I very much doubt it’s going to pick right back up where this one left off.
But ok. Let’s leave the unfinished lack-of-ending aside, and just talk about the merits of the book itself. It’s another multiple-murder mystery. Part of the first murder’s mystery (how was it done) was obvious, though the protagonist doesn’t figure it out until nearly the end of the story. It’s the “who” that keeps a reader guessing. There are several prime suspects, each with his and her own motivations.
However, apart from Anna (the main character) the other people in the book are fairly two-dimensional and follow the archetypes. Still, the story is short (only 222 pages) and I’ll read the next book to see if the series holds my interest.
Set in the brutal West Texas desert, a series of accidental deaths and close-calls has Anna’s spidey sense tingling. The deaths are blamed upon her beloved animal denizens, but there are elements to the deaths that just don’t add up. The park’s bureaucracy is content to let sleeping dogs lie, to kill a few mountain lions and to let every thing be lost to the sands of time.
She investigates everyone who could be a suspect, including her friends, lover and potential lovers, leaving no stone unturned, no awkward question unasked. Eventually, she does find answers… and then (minor spoiler) leaves us on a mountaintop in the middle of the night with the perpetrator maybe dying, maybe not, Anna maybe saving him, maybe not, the perpetrator maybe getting away with it, maybe not.
I liked the story. I don’t like the not-ending. I will like it even less if I don’t find out what happened. Some things, I as a reader like to imagine one way or the other – nuances, minor details. I don’t want to have to guess at a major plot point. Perhaps I lack imagination, or perhaps I want to be spoon-fed.
Less than thirty seconds after I realized the book was done, I said aloud, “oh hell no” and logged into the blog to begin my review, so I’m still a little miffed as I write this. And I’m going to go start the second book in the series, A Superior Death, right now.
(And NO – we do not pick up where we left off. We’re in the middle of a squall on Lake Superior, far from the desert sands. Nevada Barr, you’d better fill me in at some point as to what happened.)
PS – Paul on Facebook wrote, “Erin, after reading your review, I was curios as to the odd ending so I read a few online reviews as well as some at Amazon. It looks as if some of the copies out there were missing a handful of pages at the end of the book. Many people comment on how they loved the ending, how the killer was revealed, others noted that it looked as if their copies were missing a critical last few pages. It looks like might be the case with your copy!”
AhA! Now to see if the library has an intact copy….
Alas. Our hard copy has the same ending, and given there are only a few sentences on the final page, with 7/8 of the page blank, I think I’m just stuck dealing with The Not Knowing. Margh. However, the second book has me pretty well hooked already, so I reckon I’m a fan.