The year my family left Colorado to return to the south, I discovered Nevada Barr and the first book in her Anna Pigeon series, Track of the Cat. The series appealed to me on many levels, not the least important was the setting of a new National Park for each new book. It was a chance for me to return to many of the places we had visited in the twelve years we lived out west as well as a few that were scattered around the country.
The series itself was excellent, having well-plotted books and an intriguing heroine. Anna Pigeon was like any number of park rangers I had met or seen as we toured the magical places that are our National Park system. Gradually, I finished the series and thought perhaps I was done with Barr’s books. That was before her most recent book, WHAT ROSE FORGOT, came to my attention. Knowing how much I had enjoyed the earlier series, I was curious as to how I would like a “stand-alone” novel, so I requested an advanced copy from the publisher through NetGalley. What an excellent decision on my part. This one was every bit as good a puzzle as her other novels and bonus, it had a lightness and hints of humor that made it that much more enjoyable. For my review, read on.
A well plotted mystery told from intended victim Rose’s point of view. The reader is immediately plunged into Rose’s world as she comes out of a meditative trance to find herself not in her meditation room, as expected, but outside surrounded by trees and other shrubs. How did she get her? Where is here? And Why is she so thirsty and confused?
Moments after becoming aware of her surroundings, Rose is found by two young boys, one of whom gives her the little water he has and then hurries off to the local nursing home/Alheimer’s Care Center for help. Before she understands what is happening, two orderlies descend on her with orange juice and pills. Just as the thought that the juice contains poison enters her mind, Rose is drug back to the facility and returned to the Memory Care Unit from which she escaped, although no one knows how.
Through a curtain of confusion brought on by drugs that are pushed on her by the staff, Rose maintains enough lucidity to suspect she is being poisoned. She has no clue as to who is trying to harm her, but she has reason to suspect they want her dead within the next week. Armed with this belief, Rose hatches a plan to escape the unit and figure out who is trying to murder her.
As the book unfolds the picture of Rose comes into focus. She is 68 years old, wealthy, a widow who practices Yoga, pursues Buddhism, and has an artist’s temperament. Add in a quirky sense of humor and you have the makings of a truly enjoyable mystery. The writing is off center just enough to add to the unique nature of the narrative with descriptions like: feeling like she’s been trampled by a herd of gnus. Rose is that older woman we always see depicted with a highly individualized sense of style, bordering on bohemian, an accomplished artist, and devoted grandmother.
As the story progresses, Rose becomes increasingly convinced that she is the only one who can solve the mystery of who is trying to do her harm. After all, who is going to believe an older woman who is recently widowed and then diagnosed with early rapid onset dementia? She sets out to solve the mystery herself, getting help along the way from her young teenage granddaughter and her sister Marion, a computer expert, whose aide she enlists by relating facts that demonstrate how her life is in danger.
The book is well paced, pulling the reader through at a speed that allows for continued interest and makes room for appreciation of the humor when and where it appears. The suspense of the culprit’s identity builds to an excellent climax at the point of denouement and then gently returns to earth with an insightful epilogue. My thanks to St. Martin’s Press and NetGalley for providing me with an advanced reader copy of this novel in exchange for an unbiased review.
This book is scheduled to be published on September 17, 2019, so you’ve got time now to head to your local independent bookseller or library to reserve the book. If your library doesn’t have plans to order it, it’s worth you suggesting it to them, at least in my opinion. It’s a book I will be recommending to many friends as I think it has a wide appeal as well as being well-plotted and well-written. As always, I wish you Happy Reading.