Wednesday, July 5, 2017

Track of the Cat: Nevada Barr

Each book in the Anna Pigeon series by Nevada Barr is set in a different national park in the US. If this book is any indication, the reader is immersed in nature and the environment while reading each story.

Anna is a park ranger, and in this novel, she has a posting at the Guadalupe Mountains National Park in Texas. As the book starts, she is hiking a transect in the park looking for mountain lion scat. (A transect is a path along which one counts and records occurrences of the species of study.) As she nears the end of her trek, she finds the body of another park ranger. Apparently the ranger, Sheila Drury, was mauled by a mountain lion, but Anna questions whether this is true. Against the wishes of her superiors, she pursues an investigation to find out more about the death.


For some reason, I have never thought of National Park Rangers as law enforcement officers; this may not be the largest part of their jobs at most times, but they can be trained in law enforcement, and if so, they do carry guns. Although this book is a thriller, Anna's experiences were believable. Nevada Barr was a park ranger and worked in the Guadalupe Mountains National Park, so she clearly is writing from experience and is invested in the theme of protecting animals in the park and the environment.

I found this a very good read, although to be honest, the portions where she is out on trails hiking were not my favorite parts. I suspect I am in the minority here, and I recommend this highly for readers interested in this immersion in the environment. Anna is a very interesting character, strong-willed, sometimes irritable and cranky, and for the most part a loner. The fact that Anna is not always likable makes her more interesting to me; she is not your usual type of heroine. The secondary characters were not so well developed, however.

Here is a quote from the first chapter of the book:
Anna sat down on a smooth boulder, the top hollowed into a natural seat. The red peeling arms of a Texas madrone held a veil of dusty shade over her eyes. This was the third day of this transect. By evening she would reach civilization: people. A contradiction in terms, she thought even as the words trickled through her mind. Electric lights, television, human companionship, held no allure. But she wanted a bath and she wanted a drink. Mostly she wanted a drink.
As mentioned before,  each book is set in a different National Park area and this is a bonus. I have several more books in the series: Endangered Species (1997) and Deep South (2000) and a couple of the later books. I would especially like to read Deep South because the area she is assigned to is the Natchez Trace Parkway. (My grandfather used to call me Natchez Trace.) It could be fun to read about that area.

See other reviews at Crimepieces and Petrona, and Margot's Spotlight at Confessions of a Mystery Novelist...

-----------------------------

Publisher:  Avon Books, 1994. Orig. pub. 1993.
Length:     311 pages
Format:     Paperback
Series:      Anna Pigeon, #1
Setting:     Texas
Genre:      Mystery
Source:     I purchased my copy a long time ago.

26 comments:

  1. A most interesting series, Tracy, especially so because Anna Pigeon solves mysteries in different national parks. I like nature and a green environment though too much description of either in a work of fiction might put me off a bit. I don't think that's the case here.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I learned a lot about the job of a park ranger in this book, Prashant. Very interesting.

      Delete
  2. Thanks, Tracy, for the kind mention. I have to say, one thing I like a lot about this series is Anna Pigeon's character. As you say, she's unusual, and not always likeable. Yet, she's a strong character. And her faults make her more human. And I known what you mean about reading books where there's a personal connection.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Yes, a very strong character, Margot. I do hope I can continue the series.

      Delete
  3. I like the Anna Pigeon books, but of course I would: they're a lot like the Paul Doiron and William Kent Krueger books I like. Give me the deep woods and some criminals and I'll scare myself silly. I can barely walk through the woods without thinking some crazed person is after me! I think I'm more afraid of wild people in the woods than wild animals!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I am the same way, Joan, being out in the woods is spooky to me. I haven't read either Doiron or Krueger, but I do want to try their books. I have also heard her compared to Tony Hillerman, for the use of setting.

      Delete
  4. Yet another author I see a lot, but have never read.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I had collected a few of her books here and there, Ryan, but never taken the step to read one. I am glad I did.

      Delete
  5. Probably not one I'm drawn to if I'm honest.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I agree, Col, not your type of book. Or at least not when you have so many others to pursue.

      Delete
  6. I liked this one and even more the second in the series A Superior Death, which takes place (unsurprisingly) at Lake Superior. I went on to read several more before moving on, but, reminded here, might well read whichever is next in the series. Thanks, as always, for the review.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Ah, I thought someone had recommended A Superior Death and now I am pretty sure it was you, Rick. Great. I will get a copy of that one too.

      Delete
  7. Not all US Park Rangers are law enforcement rangers. But, for the ones who are, that's their main job, police work in the National Park System. There's also a US Park Police. They tend to operate in urban parks (DC, the San Francisco Golden Gate Recreation Area), while LE Rangers operate in more rural climes.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thanks for that information, Jim. I did look it up a bit online, I find it very interesting. I found that there could be four areas of emphasis in training: Enforcement of Law, Education and Interpretation, Emergency Services, and Park Maintenance. And one place it said that some states require State Park Rangers to be peace officers, so they must be trained in law enforcement and investigation. And I did not know that there were seasonal rangers either.

      Delete
  8. My first reaction seeing the title was the Robert Mitchum movie of the same title, which won an Academy Award or two, I recall. Saw it as a kid. Never thought there might be a book (and maybe there isn't), but this sounds like a good read, Tracy, but then your reviews always draw me in.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Well now, Mathew, you have made me curious about the movie. I looked it up, and my husband tells me it had unusual color photography, so now I want to watch it some time. It is based on a book, by Walter Van Tilburg Clark, who also wrote The Ox-Bow Incident.

      Yes, this book was a good read.

      Delete
  9. I have a few of her books in the pile. I always see people complain about her writing style. I plan to read her for myself, no worries there. --Keishon

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. That is interesting, Keishon. I have seen mixed reviews, but mostly complaints about not liking the character. She is definitely worth a try.

      Delete
  10. I like this series very much starting with this book. I've read all but one or two. The settings are so well described one almost feels like one is there. And each book takes place in a different park in a different state.

    Anna Pigeon is a great character, not always likeable, true. But more like a real person than many protagonists. She is moody and often crabby, but she is also brave and very smart.

    The latest book, "Boar Island," set in Maine is quite good. And Anna has to deal with a lot of physical abuse.

    I love Maine so I enjoyed the descriptions of the settings.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. The setting in different states is definitely part of the attraction, Kathy. I will try more books in the series, in order preferably, if that works out.

      Delete
  11. I read this one, but didn't then pursue the series. But I might be more attracted to the idea of the different national parks as settings now, because I have visited some of them since then!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Moira, there are several elements that encourage me to read more of these, although any one of them alone would not be enough. The protagonist's characteristics are intriguing, various state park and thus also various states, and learning more about what Park Rangers do.

      Delete
  12. Well, this is a bit of a diversion from Nevada Barr's books, but I have enjoyed this article with photos of her gorgeous house in New Orleans. Her husband can make anything, and she paints. So, you may enjoy this, too. I love the colors.
    http://www.nola.com/homegarden/index.ssf/2015/07/nevada_barr_new_orleans_home.html

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Kathy: Those are nice photos, a lovely house, and the article is interesting too. I bet New Orleans is a nice place to live, except for the humidity. Thanks for including that link.

      Delete
  13. Ugh, the humidity! New York's is bad enough.
    But there is so much about New Orleans from music to food to communities. Perhaps a visit would be sufficient.-+

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Visiting New Orleans would be nice, Kathy. I have only been a few times and only briefly. I bet it has changed a lot since my visits.

      Delete