The stunning, harsh landscape of Pinnacles National Park, in California's Salinas Valley, makes a formidable background for Forgotten Trail, the third installment of Claire Kells's National Parks mystery series. Kells (An Unforgiving Place; Vanishing Edge) expertly weaves in the scenery and history of the Pinnacles, among the United States' newest national parks, into a highly satisfying plot that works as a procedural and a locked-room mystery.
Investigative Services Branch agent Felicity Harland and her partner Ferdinand "Hux" Huxley investigate the death of businessman Chris Denton. He was stabbed with a shard of glass in his cliffside suite during the opening of the Pinnacles Grand, a luxury hike-in hotel located four-and-a-half miles from the parking lot. The logical suspect is Colleen, his wealthy wife, who was found leaning over the body. The couple was estranged, though Colleen refused to accept the separation; she followed Chris to the hotel and stalked his room and his movements with his young lover, Aria Privar, who has disappeared, leaving a high-heeled shoe on one of the trails. Colleen even admits to Harland and Huxley that she had considered hiring a hit man to kill Chris. As park rangers scour the trails looking for Aria, Harland also looks into a 30-year-old cold case that occurred nearby.
Kells makes the most of the beautiful landscape, the lure of rugged hiking, and the intricacies of investigating crimes in the wilderness of national parks. Intelligent Felicity Harland guides the tense plot, with supporting characters who emerge as three-dimensional. --Oline H. Cogdill, freelance reviewer