Heller's newest suspenseful wilderness story is full of danger, wonder, and emotional ties; the unforgiving nature and beauty of the natural world; and quick thinking that saves the day more than once. As with all Heller novels, the writing is exquisitely beautiful.
Peter Heller's newest novel, The Last Ranger, centers around Ren, an enforcement officer in Yellowstone National Park.
Ren spends his days protecting tourists from the wild animals who live in the park, stopping drunken fights at campgrounds, and serving as mediator between wealthy vacationers temporarily in the park and the working-class full-time residents of the neighboring town.
When he investigates a local poacher, he begins to unravel a complicated web of conspiracy theories, renegade heroism, secrets, and danger.
Peter Heller is an absolute favorite author of mine. His writing is beautiful, and its spare tone strikes the perfect chord for the wild environment his characters live within.
Ren is emotionally closed off due to past personal tragedy, yet he is endearingly connected to his fellow park employees and to many of those who live in the towns bordering the park. When he does show vulnerability, it feels hard-won--I loved it.
The impossible, frustrating push and pull of tourism and preservation are a tension throughout the story. I loved seeing Ren's procedure as he prevented issues, coped with challenges, headed off trouble, and faced danger head-on.
The reintroduced wolves are at the center of the story--the public's fascination, shared by scientists studying the animals; the inability to contain the creatures within park boundaries to preserve their safety; and the danger that comes for them even within the park.
A subplot confused me in that it felt as though its presence was meant to build up widespread danger and reveal shiver-inducing deep roots winding throughout political powerhouses and wealthy supporters. Then it was dropped altogether, so that it felt like a messy situation that isn't fully explored.
A couple of other potentially disastrous and complex situations were faced and addressed, and I enjoyed the clean resolutions that may have been easy but felt satisfying.
As always, I'm in for Heller's showcasing of the unforgiving, beautiful natural world; the sometimes-renegade justice that emerges in impossible situations; and his characters' hard-won emotional vulnerability.
His writing is just gorgeous and I'm in for every word.
I received a prepublication copy of this book courtesy of Knopf and NetGalley.
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