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by Scott Graham
Torrey House, June 2018
249 pages
ISBN: 1937226875

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Having already taken on Grand Canyon, Rocky Mountain, and Yellowstone National Parks, Scott Graham moves his archaeologist hero, Chuck Bender, to Yosemite National Park. Chuck and a group of his buddies were renegade rock climbers in Yosemite some twenty years ago, so his return to the Park in a quest to substantiate new claims regarding a historical battle between miners and Native Americans is also a reunion with his old climbing friends. His family is along with him on this trip, and his wife Janelle plays a more important role in the events that transpire than she has done in previous books.

The aging climbers who are meeting up in Yosemite encounter a wide variety of dangers, beginning with the death of a wingsuiter. Chuck and Janelle, who is trained as an EMT, hike into the valley to search of the missing flyer, protecting the flyer's business as a blogger by avoiding notifying the authorities until they know what happened. This puts them under suspicion when they find and report his body. A theme running through the book is the lingering antipathy between the aging climbers and the park law enforcement, and this is just one example. Over the course of the book, one reunion member after another falls prey to an accident in this dangerous setting, while Chuck attempts to determine whether these "accidents" are being engineered and, if so, why.

The book has several plot lines, moving among Chuck's focus on present-day dangers faced by his climbing group, the confrontation between gold prospectors and Native Americans in the past, and Chuck's early-adolescent daughter's emerging climbing talent. The historical perspective on the Yosemite area is fascinating, and the plot associated with the young girl's climbing skills helps the non-rock- climbing reader understand the sport as well as adding tension to the story. Graham effectively places the reader in the landscape and history of the West, while further developing Chuck's character and building stronger personalities for his family.

At some points, the motivations of the supporting characters make less than perfect sense, and Chuck doesn't always make the smartest decisions, which can make the reader want to throttle him. Janelle seems to be stepping up as the voice of reason in the family, however, and this bodes well for the development of a stronger family dynamic in future books in the series. I'm looking forward to the next book, ARCHES ENEMY, which is due to come out in June 2019.

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

Reviewed by Sharon Mensing, June 2018

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Contact: Yvonne Klein (ymk@reviewingtheevidence.com)

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