Liberty Falling, the latest installment in Nevada Barr's Anna Pigeon series, finds the park ranger/sleuth in the Big Apple. Not a lot of call for a park ranger in New York City, one might think, but in fact one of the most popular tourist parks in the country can be found within the city limits: Ellis and Liberty Islands, home of the Statue of Liberty.
Anna has rather more personal reasons for being in New York City: Her sister Molly is in the ICU of Columbia-Presbyterian Hospital, and Anna must face the prospect of her sister's possible death. Because she can't bear to stay at her sister's apartment, Anna bunks with an old ranger buddy out on Liberty Island.
From the outset, her stay is punctuated by bizarre and deadly events: a young girl apparently dives to her death from the observation platform in the crown of the statue; someone in the onlooking crowd claims that the girl had some help from an aggressive park ranger; within days, said ranger is found dead; Anna is pushed in front of an oncoming subway, only to be saved at the last moment by a casual passerby. Given to paranoia at the best of times, Anna tries to dismiss the events as coincidence, but as the week wears on it becomes more and more difficult.
Liberty Falling is something of a departure for Nevada Barr. In several of Anna's earlier adventures, the crimes centered around time-honored themes of jealousy or greed. The bad guys (and/or girls) in Liberty Falling are not so simply motivated; conspiracy piles upon conspiracy until Anna is literally awash in a sea of red herring (and worse, considering that it's New York Harbor after all). The fate of the premiere symbol of freedom hangs in the balance.
One cannot help but agree with beleaguered Anna as she quips: All the world's a plot, and all the men and women in it merely suspects. Bruce Tierney lives in Nashville, Tennessee.