NEVADA BARR – Firestorm. Anna Pigeon #4. Putnam, hardcover, 1996. Avon, paperback, 1997.

   Barr is one of those authors who seems to have taken the field more or less by storm, and whose first novel commands a ridiculous price from dealers. I’ve only read one of her previous three books, the second, and thought it was well written prose-wise but had an excruciatingly unlikely plot denouement. I felt sort of sad when I started this, because it was a a book that a god friend had harangued me about reading.

   Forest ranger and EMT Anna Pigeon is attached to a firefighting crew that’s battling a monster blaze in the National Forest and Lassen Volcanic National Park in Northern California when disaster strikes. Just as the fire appears to be winding down, a change in the weather causes a firestorm and Anna and the crew are caught by it.

   Most survive, but most are burned to one degree or another, and they are isolated from rescue by terrain and weather. When they check for survivors, one of the casualties is not only burned, but stabbed. Those that remain must worry not only about surviving injury and the elements, but the presence of a murderer in their midst.

   I liked this. Anna Pigeon is a very engaging character (at least in this book; I don’t remember liking her as well in the other), and here Barr writes a very lean, straightforward style of prose and tells a hell of a good story. The nearest I’ve come to to fighting forest fires is brush and grassland, but I’ve seen firestorms, and if Barr hasn’t been there and done that, she’s listened well to someone who has. The realism of the fire scenes is astounding.

   Barr did a good job with the supporting cast and the mystery was adequate, but this was as much about coping and survival as anything else, to me. Good book.

— Reprinted from Ah Sweet Mysteries #24, March 1996.

      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)