The Jacknife Fire is burning in Northern California at Lassen Volcanic National Park. Anna Pigeon has been brought in from her post as ranger at Mesa Verde to be part of the emergency medical crew to a "spike", a group of firefighters right up against the fire line called the San Juan crew. She and Stephen Lindstrom are mainly responsible for blisters, scratches, bumps, and bruises.
They get an emergency call. One of the men was hit by a tree at the line and his leg is broken. Anna and Stephen go up to the line to help him and evacuate him. Most of the group at the line head back to camp. But a small group stay to help carry the litter with the injured man.
As the ten of them are returning to camp with the injured man, a cold front is coming in. Suddenly they are caught in a firestorm that engulfs everything around them. They start running. Leonard Nims, from New Mexico, is the first person to drop the litter and run. The other three still left can't continue and also have to run. The ten people are able to pull out their special individual protective tents, hunker down, and let the fire burn around them. When they emerge from their tents and account for each other, they discover that Nims is dead. But the fire didn't kill him. A knife in the back had.
The firestorm has isolated the group from camp. They have radio contact, but can't be reached immediately. The trees had burned and fallen all over the area, blocking the routes in. The cold front has settled in, bringing fog and snow, so helicopters can't fly in. And someone in their small group is a killer. Now Anna has to help the wounded - physically and emotionally wounded - and discover who is the killer before they are rescued and the murderer is able to walk away.
The image painted in this book of the firestorm is eerie and frightening. Anna, and the others, are crouched under small aluminum type tents listening to the fire rushing and destroying all around them. Barr shows the glorious, terrifying beginning of the actual storm, the fire twisters, the engulfing and explosions of the trees. I have read others in the series describing the National Parks. But the pictures here are more vivid to me - the fire and the desolate aftermath.
The mystery is a good puzzler as well. Nims was not killed by the fire, nor was he killed before the fire. Yet he was dead after the fire - the evidence shows that he was killed during the fire. It is impossible anyone could have moved around and survived during the conflagration. Someone had, though.
| Anna Pigeon National Park Series:
Track of the Cat Guadaloupe Mountains National Park, TX
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These reviews are personal opinions only and in no way reflect other readers' opinions of the books discussed.
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