Pigeon fans, rejoice! The National Park Ranger/sleuth returns to
bookstores after a three-year hiatus by her creator, Nevada Barr.
Barr moved to New Orleans just before Hurricane Katrina and took
time off from fictional danger and suspense to be a real-life
observer of Mother Nature and to clean up and repair her damaged
home. She’s back with what may be the best Anna Pigeon
adventure in her long string of successes.
The setting for WINTER STUDY is not New Orleans, however. The
adventurous Anna returns to Isle Royale on the north shoreline of
Lake Superior in the dead of winter, with mixed emotions. Very
early in her career she spent a summer at the remote island
National Park and very nearly lost her life beneath the chilly
waters in a diving incident.
The reintroduction of gray wolves to the park’s animal
population at her current posting in Rocky Mountain National Park
prompts her superiors to send her on a six-week fact-finding tour
to observe a 50-year study of predator/prey interaction between
wolves and moose. She’s prepared for the bone-chilling
sub-zero cold and hip-deep snows, but she’s not ready for the
spine-chilling challenge awaiting her in the cramped cabin she
shares with the research scientists.
Homeland Security, concerned about guarding the Canadian border, is
pushing to open the park year round. Normally closed during the
frigid winters in order to control possible illegal aliens from
entering the United States across an unguarded frontier, this
action would bring to a halt a valuable 50-year study. Washington
has sent a Homeland Security official to observe the study and is
among her cabin mates.
Anna encounters savagery in nature that seems to put a lie to facts
that wolves do not attack humans when one of the researchers is
found dead, apparently the victim of an attack by one of the three
wolf packs on the island. Doubting the evidence of the attack, Anna
begins to suspect that humans may be involved as she finds herself
being stalked by an unknown, savage predator.
In her long and adventurous career as a National Park Ranger, Anna
has encountered natural and human threats --- from raging forest
fires, serial killers and child molesters to dangerous wildlife and
nature’s own vengeance --- but never has she lived in such
close proximity to madness as in WINTER STUDY.
Nevada Barr never fails to serve up a suspense-filled outdoor
adventure, filled with psychologically fascinating villains and
heroes, action and true-to-life natural settings in America’s
national parks. The authenticity of her settings and crime fighting
is based on her personal experience. She has worked as a ranger at
several National Parks, including Isle Royale, and always visits
each featured park.
Among her biggest fans are countless numbers of forest rangers and
National Park workers who can testify to the authenticity not only
of the settings but nod knowingly at some of the behind-the-scenes
rivalries and insider humor of the realities of the low pay, rugged
living conditions and camaraderie between park service employees.
The parks themselves become characters in her page-turning
WINTER STUDY heralds a welcome return of a favorite suspense
character. We look forward to another adventure with our favorite
park ranger. Will Hurricane Katrina be a featured character in
another thrilling episode in the life of Anna Pigeon?
Reviewed by Roz Shea on January 24, 2011