Title: Borderline (Annea Pigeon #15) by Nevada Barr
Published April 26, 2010; Berkley
I love reading books set in locations I've never visited. It makes me feel I'm getting something new while being entertained with a good story. This is the case with Nevada Barr's latest mystery - in her Anna Pigeon national park ranger series.
Borderline takes place in the Big Bend National Park in Texas, just across the Rio Grande River separating the U.S. from Mexico. Park ranger Anna is on administrative leave, recovering from the trauma of confronting a ruthless murderer on the Isle Royale National Park in Michigan. She and her police chief/pastor husband Paul are now on vacation at Big Bend in Texas, taking a leisurely two week rafting trip down the Rio Grande with a group of college students, led by a park rafting leader. What should have been a journey of personal recovery and tranquility turns out otherwise for Anna, however.
Things start to turn sour quickly. The group sees a starving cow stranded on top of the high cliffs in a canyon on the river and Anna is determined to rescue it; the inexperience and stubbornness of one of the college kids causes the group to lose their inflatable raft with all their equipment and supplies. Then comes a shocking discovery and bullets from an unknown assailant on the U.S. side of the river.
Anna is again in the position of leading an investigation and recovery, this time while desperately dodging death along the steep banks of the river canyon and trying to protect the people in her party. All this coincides with the highly publicized visit to the park of a mayor who supports keeping park borders closed to Mexicans across the river. and who is running for the governor's position in Texas
Description of location, plot, and character development all blend to make this a memorable and thrilling ride down the Rio Grande. Though I guessed the culprit about halfway through the book, and the motives, since the author gave us so many hints along the way, I can still recommend this as another very good mystery, with situations that reflect current social and political realities.