cover image The Last Ranger

The Last Ranger

Peter Heller. Knopf, $27 (304p) ISBN 978-0-593-53511-0

Heller (The Guide) offers an immersive story of a dedicated Yellowstone park ranger and the threats he faces down. Ren Hopper spends his days policing poachers and saving families from animal attacks. In his spare time, he likes to read Russian fiction and hang out with Hilly, a biologist who is studying the wolf packs that inhabit the park. One day, he finds Hilly caught in a leg trap and rescues her. Suspicion for setting the trap falls on alleged poacher Les Ingraham. Ren investigates Les’s background and finds he is peripherally connected to the Pathfinders, a militia of wealthy ranchers whose ultimate goal is to take over government land for their own financial gain, but local police refuse to follow up on his discoveries. As Ren and Hilly become romantically entwined, he finds more traps, which he takes to be veiled threats from Les. Though the plot is fairly thin, Heller compensates with strong characterizations, a vivid sense of place, enough wolf lore to fill several NatGeo specials, and a Boy Scout Handbook’s worth of wood-crafting tips. Fans of fiction about the outdoors are well served. (Aug.)