Boar Island by Nevada Barr is the 19th novel in the Anna Pigeon park ranger series.
0 out of 10 stars. Boar Island had two main plot lines but the “twists” were obvious and the ending unsatisfactory, leaving several characters hanging in the breeze. Unrealistic portrayals, red herrings, and quantum leaps of characters.
We begin with the same characters from Destroyer Angel, Heath Jarrod (a paraplegic) and her adopted daughter from Hard Truth, Elizabeth. Elizabeth is in a bad place, being cyber bullied, stalked, and tormented by kids at school. Some one is photo-shopping her face onto human-animal porn and spreading awful rumors about her that don’t have an ounce of truth. Elizabeth finally reveals to Heath, Anna (her godmother) and Gwen (her great aunt) what happened right before the rumors started. She went over to her best friend’s house next door, Tiffany, and was waiting for Tiffany to come back home from the corner store when Tiffany’s father, Sam, started groping her and tried to assault her. Tiffany and her mother, Terry, came home in time to see this and immediately Terry blamed Elizabeth for being a “Jessabelle” and threw her out.
Anna finds out Sam had been forced out of his old company in Idaho for doing the exact same thing to another 16 year old girl and calls the cops on Sam. He is not arrested, his wife screams vapid obscenities at Elizabeth, and Tiffany apologizes for her parents but denies spreading the rumors about Elizabeth. Anna then gets reassigned to a temporary outpost at the Acadia National Park in Maine and Heath, Elizabeth, and Gwen go with her to stay on Boar Island, a tiny island off the coast of Acadia with an old Victorian house belonging to Gwen’s friend Kris, who is in bad health on the main land. This is the first unrealistic part, it just so happens that Gwen used to work in this exact tiny town in Maine, the exact same tiny town that Anna is deployed to ~40 years after Gwen left the first time? Uh huh. All three women also take Tiffany at face value, when it is so so obvious that her mother Terry blames Elizabeth and has a vapid, foul streak of hatred. Eventually Terry is unmasked as the stalker, but not after an even more unbelievable sequence near the end of the book.
Next we have the story line of Ranger Denise Castle, a woman I should feel sorry for given her past, but Barr gives her such unlikable characteristics I can’t do anything but despise her by the end of the novel. Denise dated Peter Barnes, her boss at Acadia National Park, for eleven years then she got pregnant. Peter told her if she didn’t get an abortion, he would leave her. Not hit her, fire her, take her house, just leave her. At the time she has her own apartment and no mention is made of any emotional or physical abuse by Peter but she chooses to get an abortion, then has a nervous breakdown and tells everyone they work with that Peter slaughtered their child. Peter leaves her and 3 years later is married to a woman named Lily and has a new baby named Olivia. Obviously this has got to hurt but what bugs me is how Denise compares her experience to another woman, Paulette, who lost 3 babies because her husband beats the crap out of her all the time and had complete control over her finances, home, and abused her for decades. This, combined with Denise’s past as a teen who did drugs and vandalized property on the regular, made her really hard to empathize with from the very beginning. She is also responsible for starting the “Lobster Wars” because she has been night-diving and stealing lobsters from traps belonging to several lobster fisherman. She hasn’t stolen from the Whitman traps, so everybody now thinks the Whitman’s must be the ones stealing leading to an 80-year old lobster man Jerry shooting 40-year old John Whitman Jr. This happens just before the novel takes places and Jerry is never arrested. John Jr’s son Walter is 20 years old and framed for the murder of his father, while he isn’t arrested yet his fishing license is suspended and they never come back to his story about whether or not he gets justice or gets his livelihood back. Why include this?
Continuing with Denise, who was adopted at birth, she drinks a lot and meets a woman named Paulette who has the aforementioned abusive husband. Paulette lives one town over and while she dyes her hair and hasn’t had her teeth fixed the two realize they are long lost identical twins separated at birth. Paulette shows Denise some newspaper clippings over the last two years in the personal ads of a person looking for female identical twins separated at birth who are 42 years old. The ad mentions a “legacy” to be inherited so the two make a plan to run off together and pursue this legacy. First, they have to get rid of Paulette’s abusive husband Kurt, sell the shack they share, and use the money to go to a new town with new names and live happily ever after. Denise offers to murder Kurt in a “strangers on a train” deal arranging the timing so that Paulette has a rock-solid alibi. After she has done the deed, Anna and Denise (who is a ranger remember) are called to help the State police investigate the crime. This is a fatal mistake because Anna sees the widow Paulette and Denise next to each other and already starts to put two and two together. Less than a couple days later Denise becomes convinced Anna knows everything and they need to kidnap her and stow her away somewhere until her and Paulette can get away. Paulette is getting cold feet and doesn’t want to leave anymore, but she is very passive and agrees to help Denise kidnap Anna. Denise has stolen roofies from the evidence locker to dose Anna with. Paulette is a nurse’s aid and injects Anna as she is sleeping in the Ranger’s station. Anna, who sleeps naked, immediately wakes up and puts on boots and a gun to chase the two would-be kidnappers and ends up passing out from the roofies, naked in front of the station after a few laps. Denise and Paulette drag her to Denise’s boat to take her to a shack where Anna can stay out of the way for a few days. Paulette loses it and decides she hasn’t done anything wrong, only Denise has and wants to bail. Denise checks Anna and tells Paulette Anna has died from an overdose, and because Paulette injected her Paulette has now murdered someone and they must stick together. Ahhhh family bonding. Anna, who is not dead, is wrapped in a garbage bag and thrown overboard only to be rescued from the water just in time by Walter, the lobster fisherman trying to clear his name. Anna is nursed back to health by Heath and Gwen and decides she doesn’t want to report anything to the police yet because she doesn’t know who kidnapped her and very few people knew where she was staying, most of them cops.
Meanwhile, Elizabeth has gotten a package full of heroine coupled with an anonymous tip to the local cops that she is a drug dealer. The trio explain to the cops about Elizabeth’s stalker, etc. so they don’t arrest her. Elizabeth has also gotten a message to meet in person that afternoon on the mainland so she goes, with Anna, Heath, and Walter on the outskirts in disguise. This is when we see Terry, with a wig, pull a bottle of battery acid out of her purse to squirt it on Elizabeth’s face and disfigure her. Heath gets there first, and takes the hit to her back where the battery pack of her newest paraplegic contraption is, saving Elizabeth. Terry falls in the puddle of acid and burns half her face off, shrieking vapid obscenities at Elizabeth until she is taken away by authorities. Now here is another unrealistic part. This woman, who has dealt with her husband’s perversions before, snaps when it is this particular girl? Enough that she buys heroin online, flies to the other side of the country in pursuit, and goes this far? I don’t think so. There is also no discussion of the fact that Tiffany will now have to live alone with her pedophile father, and they drop any discussion of Sam going to jail for what he did to Elizabeth. It is never mentioned.
Back to Denise, who has decided her and Paulette deserve a baby before they jet out of town. They decide on Peter’s baby, Olivia. So Denise sneaks into Peter’s house, which she has been watching for 4 years, and poisons baby Olivia with ergotamine, the poision from Rye seeds. This is another unbelievable part, Denise could have just snatched her but instead she poisons her with a poison that is extremely rare and hard to figure out the dosage for, just so the baby will go to the hospital and she can kidnap her from there. The excuse is it will take more time to notice the baby is missing if it is snatched form the hospital, but this is still ridiculous. Denise dyes her hair and gets matching scrubs so she looks like Paulette and goes to steal the baby after Paulette lets her into the hospital. Paulette is really naïve. She tells Denise not to steal a baby and believes her when she says she won’t. Come on people.
Anna, Gwen, Heath, and Elizabeth are in the hospital discussing Gwen’s old friend Kris who has just passed away. Gwen met Kris when Kris was 14 and giving birth to identical twin babies, who her mother made her give up. The father was a well-respected rabbi who was also a pedophile and rapist but nothing ever happened to him until he died peacefully at the age of 80 a couple years ago. Since then Kris has been putting ads in the paper trying to find her long lost babies, because not only does she want to see them, she needs to tell them she has Huntington’s disease and they have a 50% change of having this “legacy” too. Gwen reveals one of the twins has already reached out and met them in person, Paulette. Anna, recognizing the name Paulette from the murder investigation gets even more suspicious but she is still suffering from a roofie hangover and being dunked in the ocean so she goes to the station to give her statement to Peter. Peter tells her Olivia is in the hospital, takes her statement, and offers to let her have their spare room for the night since it is much closer than her ranger housing. Anna accepts, but has one favor to do for Peter. Denise has retired and left a knick knack in her office so Anna is going to drop it off with Denise on her way to Peter’s house. You can see where this is going. As soon as Denise opens the door with blonde hair and pink scrubs, all the pieces fall into place for Anna. Too late, she is subdued by Denise, who is very surprised Anna is alive and is having a full-on psychotic break and tremors–symptoms of Huntington’s. Denise duct-tapes baby Olivia to Anna and holds her at gunpoint as she drives to the shack behind Paulette’s house. Paulette walks in on Denise about to kill Anna and tries to get help, only for Denise to shoot her own twin in the back. Denise, who has no mothering instincts and has already told Anna she regrets taking Olivia because she is realizing she hates babies, kills herself to be with her twin. The end.
The end! No epilogue, no tying up of Walter’s story or what happens to Tiffany, no discussion of if Olivia survived because she was unconscious since arriving at the shack, nothing.
My last and largest gripe is how unequal the treatment of women is in this story. Women like Kris and Paulette are abused, Terry and Denise are painted as psycho, and all pay the price. Men like Peter, Sam, the rabbi, and Jerry get away with rape and murder like it’s no big deal. Women are at fault and men who commit worse crimes walk off scot-free with good fishing grounds, perfect babies, and the love of the community. I call bullsh*t.
0 out of 10 stars. Don’t read this. It will just make you angry.