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by AJ Landau
Minotaur, March 2024
320 pages
ISBN: 1250877334

Buy in the UK | Buy in Canada

As a true fan of Nevada Barr's National Park series. I was hoping for something similar in this first in a National Parks series by two authors, Jon Land and Jeff Ayers writing as A.J. Landau. While it appears that this series is going to take a substantially different direction, the first book in the series, LEAVE NO TRACE, is captivating. Rather than focusing on the beauty and background of one national park, Landau's story takes us into several national parks, all in jeopardy. When Liberty Island, the site of the Statue of Liberty, is attacked, National Park Service Special Agent, Michael Walker is thrown together with Gina Delgado of the FBI to find out who is responsible. It soon becomes clear that this is just the first of many attacks, all in National Parks.

As Gina and Michael move from one park to another, they form a bond based on mutual respect and trust, managing to thwart the terrorists' aims at least part of the time. Their investigations uncover a man who feels he has been wronged by the government and has joined forces with a deranged ex-general to take down the standing government and replace it with their own. Chapters move between Michael and Gina, who begin by working side-by-side before they must separate to take on different tasks in different locations. While they attempt to figure out what is going on and who is responsible, they find themselves in the role of saviors of the United States as we know it.

The book moves back and forth between Michael and Gina as they work in different parts of the country to take down the terrorists before they can wreak their havoc. As the pace picks up, leading to a major conflagration and bringing resolution to the plot, the already short chapters shorten to just a few paragraphs each, flinging the reader from one side of the country to the other. This is a book best read in just a few sittings. Once the middle of the book is reached, it is nearly impossible to put it down.

This is very much a plot-driven mystery, although the reader is provided with background details for both Gina Delgado and Michael Walker. Characterization does not extend very far from depicting each as super-humanly capable of meeting physical and mental challenges. Emotion is mainly kept out of the equation. The national park settings are well-described and, particularly in the case of Zion National Park, convincingly rendered.

A.J. Landau is a pseudonym created from the names of the two collaborating authors of this book. Since this is the first in this series, it remains to be seen whether the authors will continue with a frenetic multi-setting action series or if they will focus on just one national park in the second book. They have certainly carved out a unique direction for a national park series with LEAVE NO TRACE.

Sharon Mensing, retired educational leader, lives, reads, and enjoys the outdoors in Arizona.

Reviewed by Sharon Mensing, February 2024

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Contact: Yvonne Klein (ymk@reviewingtheevidence.com)

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