Book Review: “Liberty Falling” by Nevada Barr
Yearning to Breathe Free
Reviewed by G G Collins (Copyright 2015)
***** Reports of ghostly sounds by the night Park Ranger on Ellis Island has Anna searching the historic landmark’s creepy abandoned buildings. But what has brought her to New York City is her sister’s illness. It’s a heart-wrenching time for Anna in what is one of Barr’s best stories.
In Liberty Falling Barr reached a comfortable place writing Anna, the park ranger who grapples with murder in every park she works. The nice thing about this series is that Anna is such an authentic person, er, character. We like her because she screws up. She battles alcoholism, she struggles to express her feelings and she knows who we are because she is us. It’s the perfect combination of human weakness quelled by the strength we all somehow muster in challenging times.
In this remarkable chapter in Anna’s life, she has come to New York because her sister, Molly, is gravely ill. Molly is a very important person in Anna’s life: part sister, part mother. The problem is that Molly, too, needs a confidant. While she is a successful therapist, she does everything wrong as far as her own health is concerned: smokes, drinks, no exercise. It has finally caught up with her and she lies in ICU at Columbia-Presbyterian where she underwent bypass surgery complicated by pneumonia.
Anna’s former lover Frederick Stanton is also standing vigil and as steadfast readers know, he is now smitten with Anna’s sister. His obvious love for her sister as he reads to the unconscious woman causes conflicted emotions for Anna, and the romantically inclined attentions of Molly’s doctor further confuse her. No longer on the wagon, Anna sips the deadly brew to fortify her sagging soul.
To be close to Molly, Anna’s staying at a friend’s house on Liberty Island. When a fourteen-year-old girl takes the express route down the Statue of Liberty—usually 354 claustrophobic steps and a hot two-hour climb—Anna’s attention is diverted from her sister. A visitor to the statue claims that a park employee pushed the dead girl. Anna likes the accused, in spite of knowing Hatch for only a short while, and can’t help doing a little investigating on her own even though she has no legal authority. When Hatch is found dead at the base of Lady Liberty some herald it as a guilt-induced suicide but Anna thinks it may be murder.
Missing the open spaces in her home park of Mesa Verde, Colorado, Anna goes exploring Ellis Island, part of Liberty State Park. One building has been painstakingly restored to its lavish 1920s design but the others remain sad ruins of another era. During its day, 10,000 of the masses passed through Ellis Island each day hoping for a new beginning. The building consisted of a huge immigration center and state-of-the-art (at the time) hospital including operating theaters and autopsy facility. Today, the same numbers visit the compound and wonder what it must have been like. You will too because Barr describes it well and you almost feel lost in time.
What she finds leads to a conspiracy of death and destruction if Anna can’t uncover who is behind it. In the final spellbinding pages Anna attempts to thwart a pernicious plot at Liberty’s feet in Barr’s shining homage to the best and worst of humankind.
Liberty Falling does not fall short of expectations and instills in the reader a new appreciation for those who came before—yearning to breathe free.
Liberty Falling (Anna Pigeon Mysteries Book 7)
Berkley, Penguin Group ● 352 pp ● March 1999 ● Now available on Kindle
To read the full poem written by Emma Lazarus and learn about Liberty State Park go to http://www.libertystatepark.com/emma.htm. Lazarus died four years after writing the poem at age 38. It is unclear if she ever saw Liberty standing.
Posted on March 23, 2015, in Books, Editorial, Reviews and tagged Berkley, book review, Ellis Island, Emma Lazarus, G G Collins, Liberty Falling, Liberty State Park, Mystery, Nevada Barr, Penguin Group, Reluctant Medium at Large, Statue of Liberty, women sleuths, Yearning to Breathe Free. Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.