Anna Pigeon, young and raw, in this series prequelAlmost twenty years after Track of the Cat, the first Anna Pigeon mystery, we have the prequel, the missing link filling in the story of Anna’s transformation from New York Theater type to national park ranger. In The Rope Anna is just a seasonal employee whose job it is to clean boat-dumped human waste off the shores of Lake Powell in Glen Canyon National Recreational Area. It’s only a few months following her husband Zach’s death and she’s still shrouded in grief, avoiding human contact as much as possible, when after solitary hike she finds herself coming back to consciousness at the bottom of a deep, dry well--naked, alone and injured with no idea how she got there. The plot spools out with Anna gradually figuring out what happened and taking action. Like all Anna Pigeon books this one is layered with National Park details, distinctive characters, and hard-earned philosophy. It’s 1995, a time when homosexual National Park employees like Anna’s roommate Jenny, an eventual friend and ally, have to stay fairly close to their closets. My favorite series character, Anna’s insightful, unshakable sister Molly, is on hand as the voice of sophisticated composure, mostly residing in Anna’s brain. This is not my favorite Anna Pigeon mystery, for me nothing can beat Track of the Cat or Blind Descent, but there’s a renewed freshness I’ve been missing from the later books in the series.