As Lee Child recently did with his latest in the “Reacher series” titled The Affair: A Jack Reacher Novel author Nevada Barr takes readers back in time in this prequel to her Anna Pigeon series. The year is 1995 as The Rope: An Anna Pigeon Novel opens and Anna is thirty-five and adrift in a sea of mourning regarding the recent death of her husband Zach. She is a specter in black amongst the living and has barely connected with any of her fellow workers at the Glen Canyon Recreational Area except for Jenny.


So it is not surprising to anyone when Anna and her things disappear from the small cabin she shared with Jenny. The assumption is the former stage manager went back to New York as the desert backcountry was clearly no place for Anna. Not even Jenny is surprised she left though she is terribly disappointed. Not only was Anna a big help in going out and removing human waste fouling the waters and beaches of the area, Anna was the object of Jenny’s unrequited lust.


The problem is Anna never really left. Somebody drugged her, stripped her naked, scarred her body with a knife, and dumped her down a “solution hole.” A solution hole is a vertical hole or shaft cut into the surrounding sandstone that goes nowhere and has no way out thanks to the walls being polished smooth over the eons of time. Anna awakens to find herself naked, badly injured, and with no way out. Whoever did it is apparently not just leaving her to die. Instead, she is at the mercy of someone who is clearly toying with her like a bug under a magnifying lens. Her only hope is to stay alive long enough to somehow escape.


Beyond the obvious fact that Anna must survive or there would not be a published series, there is little that can be said about this glacially slow moving book without creating spoilers. Despite an obvious red herring, the suspect list is small and rather reminiscent of an Agatha Christie novel. One expects Anna at the end to summon them all to the hole she was trapped in and then name off the culprit. It does not work out quite that way, but does come fairly close.


Obsession and the effects on mental health or lack of same is the dominant theme of the book. Jenny constantly battles her own lesbian obsession as she becomes fixated on Anna as an object of love and lust. That same obsession was previously directed towards another woman with grave consequences as readers gradually learn and seems destined to end badly again. Other characters are also obsessed with Anna for various reasons making this book primarily all about who gets to claim Anna body and soul. Then there is Anna’s own obsession with the tragic death of Zach that seems to come up over and over again in each chapter before finally being replaced at the end of the book by her new obsession.


Continuing the trend in her most recent novels of a turn towards the sadistic and dark that is far from the roots of the series, The Rope: An Anna Pigeon Novel is yet another very dark read. A dark read in terms of events and tone the book clashes strongly when compared to the original and excellent start of the series titled Track of the Cat. This new novel is a highly atmospheric one with long stretches of mental contemplation by the various characters occasionally broken by some small sections of action. Long stretches of time and pages are spent in the heads of each character where readers are told what to think and feel. Unfortunately, there is not a likeable character in the bunch and by the end of the book you want to slap everyone in sight to knock some sense into them.


If you are going to spend so much time in the course of a book inside a character’s head while he or she dithers about life and his or her sexuality, it would be better spent in a much better book.


The Rope: An Anna Pigeon Novel

Nevada Barr

Minotaur Books (St. Martin’s Publishing Group)

January 2012

ISBN# 978-0-312-61457-7

Hardcover (also available as e-book and audio book)

357 Pages



Material supplied by the good folks of the Plano Texas Public Library System.


Kevin R. Tipple © 2012

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