NEVADA BARR – A Superior Death. Anna Pigeon #2. G. P. Putnam’s Sons, hardcover, 1994. Berkley, paperback, 1995. Avon, paperback, 2002(?). Berkley, paperback, 2003.

   I’ve heard a lot of good reports on Barr’s first novel, Track of the Cat, but for whatever reason have not read it. Barr, like her protagonist, is a Park Ranger, at the lovely Natchez Trace Park in Mississippi.

   Ranger Anna Pigeon has been transferred from the Texas high desert to Isle Royale National Park, a remote island off the coast of Michigan in Lake Superior and known for deepwater dives to wrecked sailing vessels. One of the vessels contains five well-preserved bodies that make it a prime diving attraction. Before long there’s a fresher body to contend with — a recently married diver who conducted diving tours on the lake. In addition, the young wife of an old-salt Park Ranger hasn’t been seen lately, and a New Age-ish couple are hinting to Anna of cannibalism and murder.

   Agh friend asked me when I was about two-thirds through the book how I liked it, and my answer was, “Pretty well, and if she doesn’t screw up the plot like so many of them do these days, I’ll like it a lot.”

   She did, though, bigtime. The eventual key to the plot was one of the most contrived and unlikely I’ve come across in many moons, and it comes to Anna in a blinding flash. Too, there’s the all-too-common situation of the law (including the FBI, this time) idling off-stage while the smart people catch the crooks, and the heroine plunging breathlessly into foolish danger.

   On the plus side, I think Barr writes very good prose, particularly when she’s dealing with nature and the environment, and manages to convey a strong ecological message without it getting in the way of the story. I liked Anna and thought that Barr did a good job with characterization overall. If you don’t share my distaste for reality shat upon, you might like this.

— Reprinted from Ah Sweet Mysteries #12, March 1994.

      The Anna Pigeon series —

1. Track of the Cat (1993)

2. A Superior Death (1994)
3. Ill Wind (1995)
4. Firestorm (1996)

5. Endangered Species (1997)
6. Blind Descent (1998)
7. Liberty Falling (1999)
8. Deep South (2000)
9. Blood Lure (2001)

10. Hunting Season (2002)
11. Flashback (2003)
12. High Country (2004)
13. Hard Truth (2005)
14. Winter Study (2008)

15. Borderline (2009)
16. Burn (2010)
17. The Rope (2012)
18. Destroyer Angel (2014)

19. Boar Island (2016)