Blind Descent (Anna Pigeon Series #6)

Blind Descent (Anna Pigeon Series #6)

3.9 21
by Nevada Barr

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Lechuguilla Cavern is a man-eating cave discovered in New Mexico's Carlsbad Caverns National Park in the mid-1980s. Estimated to extend for more than three hundred miles, only ninety of them mapped, the cave was formed by acid burning away the limestone; corridors, pits, cramped wormholes, cliffs, and splendid rooms the size of football fields tangle together in a…  See more details below


Lechuguilla Cavern is a man-eating cave discovered in New Mexico's Carlsbad Caverns National Park in the mid-1980s. Estimated to extend for more than three hundred miles, only ninety of them mapped, the cave was formed by acid burning away the limestone; corridors, pits, cramped wormholes, cliffs, and splendid rooms the size of football fields tangle together in a maze shrouded in the utter darkness of the underground. When a fellow ranger is injured in a caving accident, Anna swallows her paralyzing fear of small spaces and descends into Lechuguilla to help a friend in need. Worse than the claustrophobia that haunts her are the signs - some natural and some, more ominously, manmade - that not everyone is destined to emerge from this wondrous living tomb. The terrain is alien and hostile; the greed and destructive powers of mankind all too familiar. In this place of internal terrors, Anna must learn who it is she can trust and, in the end, decide who is to live and who is to die.

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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
Early in this sixth tale in Barr's evocative and suspenseful series (after 1997's Endangered Species), national park ranger Anna Pigeon is summoned from duty in Colorado to New Mexico's Carlsbad Caverns. A woman caver seriously injured while exploring the nearby Lechuguilla cave is a friend who has asked specifically that Anna help in her rescue. Anna has faced everything from forest fires to deep-water dives with equanimity, but claustrophobia has so far kept her above-ground. "A chilling image filled Anna's mind: herself crouched and whimpering, fear pouring like poison through her limbs, shutting down her brain as the cave closed in around her." Fully aware of her vulnerability, Anna nevertheless takes the plunge, leading readers through a truly harrowing series of tight squeezes. Barr is so good at involving us in Anna's terror that, when Anna finally reaches the surface again, we share her "unadulterated joy. Even the dirt smelled alive." Above ground, Anna quickly becomes involved in pursuing possible links between two murders and soon finds herself a rifleman's target. A sneaky suspicion starts to grow as we share the progress of her investigation of possible suspects within the sharply sketched community of cavers and National Park Service bureaucrats. Barr couldn't possibly ask Annaand usto go back underground again, could she? Wouldn't that be more than courage and credulity could bear? When it happens, of course, it seems inevitable and thoroughly satisfyingthanks to the writing and plotting talents of a master. Mystery Guild main selection; author tour. (Mar.)
School Library Journal
YA-When Anna Pigeon learns that fellow park ranger Frieda Dierkz lies injured within the depths of Lechugilla Cavern, she overcomes her claustrophobia and wills herself into the cave, along with the official rescue team. Working against her anxiety, Anna concentrates on the difficulties of moving the woman through passages and over formations while another fear begins to surface. Frieda is sure that an attempt was made on her life and rigged to look like an accident. Her apprehensions prove correct when she is killed by a fall that almost takes Anna's life as well. Left with just a shred of information, Anna sets out to find the killer. Barr brings the intricate, fascinating, and deadly underground world of spelunking into close and intimate focus using Anna's divergent emotions of awe and near terror as she works her way through the total blackness. Readers are immersed in the setting, and Anna's claustrophobia, tangibly intense at times, keeps the tension of the plot tautly controlled. She pushes herself to the limit, determined to solve the mysteries of death and dirty dealings that appear to center on the importance and fate of Lechugilla Cavern. While about half of the story takes place above ground, the intense moments occur in the deep orifices below. Barr has created a variety of characters in the rescue team, each distinct in personality and style. All of the twists and turns of the cave and the plot finally come together in an action-packed ending.-Pam Johnson, Fairfax County Public Library, VA
NY Times Book Review
On a hair-raising mission into a "monster man-eating cave" in Carlsbad Caverns, a National Park Service ranger discovers that a member of ther rescue team is a killer.
Kirkus Reviews
When Mesa Verde National Park dispatcher Frieda Dierkz, on an avocational expedition to explore and survey the Lechuguilla cave in New Mexico's Carlsbad Caverns, is trapped 800 feet beneath the earth's surface by a head injury and a shattered leg, the person she asks authorities above to send after her is her friend Anna Pigeon. Following a week's worth of deep breaths, Anna, together with Carlsbad cave specialist Oscar Iverson and Underground Resource Coordinator Holden Tillman, undertakes a nine-hour journey she compares to "an expedition into outer space" toward Frieda and the five other members of her crew—only to hear from Frieda that her accident was no accident at all. Before the rescuers can return with Frieda to the surface, another disastrous "accident" heightens the mystery. Then the grueling tour de force of the novel's subterranean first half is matched by violence aboveground as well, and by unwelcome revelations suggesting that several of Frieda's companions—a former lover, his jealous wife, a veteran caver whose sister was killed on Frieda's watch—may have had good reason to kill her. With all the irresistible force of nightmare, Anna's pulled back on a return visit to Lechuguilla, where she'll find much more than she bargained for. Barr's superbly unerring eye for natural setting and human conflict has made Anna's five earlier adventures (Endangered Species, 1997, etc.) as distinctively memorable as the National Parks themselves. This installment is the most suspenseful of all, even though claustrophobes are well-advised to stock up on Prozac before turning the first page. (Mystery Guild main selection; author tour)

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Product Details

HarperCollins Publishers
Publication date:
Anna Pigeon Series, #6
Product dimensions:
4.27(w) x 6.80(h) x 1.04(d)

Read an Excerpt

Blind Descent:

An Anna Pigeon Mystery
By Nevada Barr

HarperCollins Publishers, Inc.

Copyright ©2006 Nevada Barr
All right reserved.

ISBN: 0380728265

Chapter One

Anna hadn't seen so much dashing about and popping in and out of doors since the French farce went out of fashion. Given the pomp and posturing surrounding her, she felt like a walk-on in Noises Off.

Anna Pigeon was on the overhead team, the second wave to hit CACA -- the official if unfortunate National Park Service abbreviation for New Mexico's Carlsbad Caverns, home to two of the most famous caves in the world, the original cave, known and exploited since the late 1800s, and Lechuguilla, discovered in the 1980s and yet to be fully explored.

Though Carlsbad was less than an hour's drive from the Guadalupe Mountains, where Anna had worked some years back, she'd been down in the cave only once. The parts of Carlsbad open to the public were highly developed: paved paths, theatrical lighting, named formations, benches to sit on while changing film. At the bottom, some seven hundred fifty feet underground, there was a snack bar and souvenir shop. When hot dogs and rubber stalactites had been brought into this pristine heart of the earth, their ubiquitous companions came as well: rats, cockroaches, and raccoons.

It could be argued that the open areas of the caverns felt as much likea Disney creation as Space Mountain. There were no dangerous mazes, no precipitous heights, no tight squeezes. Still, it was a cave, and so Anna had passed on repeat trips. Given the inevitable nature of things, she would spend much of eternity underground; no sense rushing on down before the grim reaper called for her. Her love of bats might have overcome her fear of enclosed spaces, but if one waited, the splendid little creatures were good enough to come out and be enjoyed in less stygian realms.

This December she had been sent to CACA from her home park in Mesa Verde, Colorado. Trained teams consisting of park rangers from all over the region responded to catastrophes that ranged from hurricanes to presidential visits. This time it was the injury of a caver.

Had the caver been hurt in Carlsbad Cavern, extrication would have been simple: pop her in a wheelchair, roll her down to the snack bar and onto the elevator. She'd have been home before her mother knew she was missing.

But this caver had been injured in Lechuguilla. The cave was on NPS lands near CACA's headquarters. Lechuguilla was closed to the general public for the protection of both the cave and the visitors. Nearly ninety miles of the cave had been explored but it would be many years before it was fully mapped. Lech was a monster man-eating cave, dangerous to get into and harder to get out of. Two days into Lechuguilla, a member of the survey team had been hurt in an accident. Not surprisingly there'd been a contingent of experienced cavers at Carlsbad at the time, a small but dedicated group given to squeezing themselves into dark holes and living to write home about it.

Before Anna and her teammates had descended on the park, the cavers had begun doing what they did best: getting one of their own back. Procedures in place from the last, well-publicized rescue from Lechuguilla, in 1991, the NPS had mobilized in record time. Within four hours of the report, Anna had been on a plane to El Paso. By the time she reached Carlsbad more than two dozen others from the southwestern region had arrived.

With the overhead team came the inevitable Porta-Johns, food trucks, and power struggles.

On duty less than three hours, Anna was happy to sit out the political squabbles in Oscar Iverson' s snug little office. There, far from the madding crowd, she manned the phones in her official capacity as information officer, doling out approved statements to a press already panting for another media glut like that generated by the Baby Jessica case in Texas. When she was eight hundred feet below the surface of the earth and two days travel from the light of day, a grown woman in a limestone cave was almost as good as a baby in a well shaft.

For the past half hour reporters had been getting short shrift. Anna was reading. By chance she'd picked Trapped!, the story of caver Floyd Collins, off Iverson's shelves. It detailed the gruesome death and media circus surrounding the entrapment of a caver in the 1920s. Collins had become wedged in a tight passage; his attempts to wriggle free had brought down loose dirt and rock, entombing him from neck to heels, his arms pinned at his sides. For thirteen days, friends had made the dangerous descent to feed him, while up above concessionaires sold food and souvenirs to an ever-growing crowd of vultures gathered in curiosity, sympathy, and morbidity. On the fourteenth day rains so softened the earth that the access tunnel collapsed. Collins was left to die alone.

Scrawled in the margin of the book were the words "fact: wedge victims die."

Transfixed by the same dread a woman in a stranded VW might feel watching a logging truck bearing down on her, Anna was glued to the book. Iverson, Carlsbad's cave specialist, gusted into her sanctuary, and she dropped Trapped!, glad to be rescued from its bleak pages. He waved her back into his ergonomically correct office chair and folded himself haphazardly over the comer of the desk.

Housed in an old stone building built in the 1920s, the office was small, crowded by two desks, the walls lined with metal shelving and stuffed with books. Sprawled over the cluttered desktop, Oscar looked as homey and leggy as a spider in his web. Long limbs poked out the fabric of his trousers at knee and hip. His arms, seeming to bend in several places along their bony length, were stacked like sticks on his thighs. Come Halloween it would take only a little white paint to pass him off as a respectable skeleton. . . .


Excerpted from Blind Descent: by Nevada Barr Copyright ©2006 by Nevada Barr. Excerpted by permission.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

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Meet the Author

Navada Barr is the award-winning author of seven Anna Pigeon mysteries: Track of the Cat, A Superior Death, Ill Wind, Firestorm, Endangered Species, Blind Descent, and Liberty Falling. She lives in Mississippi and was most recently a ranger on the Natchez Trace Parkway

Brief Biography

Clinton, Mississippi
Date of Birth:
March 1, 1952
Place of Birth:
Yerington, Nevada
B.A., Cal Poly, San Luis Obispo, 1974; M.A., University of California at Irvine, 1977

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Blind Descent (Anna Pigeon Series #6) 3.9 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 21 reviews.
Guest More than 1 year ago
I loved this book! It was so could practically feel yourself panicking when the author describes descents into the cave. I really enjoyed it...Nevada Barr is good!
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Nevada Barr has finally hit her stride with the Anna Pigeon series. This one was by far the best yet. The suspense was edgier and the plot more interesting. The setting really added a new dimension to the story. This is what I have been waiting for in the Anna Pigeon series. Let's just hope Barr can keep it up from here. Stephanie Clanahan
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Seattleteacher More than 1 year ago
Me least while reading this book! Descriptions and details waaaayyyy too long. Characters confusing and not particularly interesting...I didn't much care what happened to them...and that's deadly in a mystery. My mystery book club chose this and "And Then There Were None" Agatha Christie for our "locked door" selection. Agatha rocks!! Even on a second or third read-through. Rocks...Barr has got but doesn't.
StephanieDPA More than 1 year ago
I began reading her books with "Winter Study", which I enjoyed very much. After that book I wanted to read more of her books, so I have purchased her whole series. I really like the character and the this book is really good. You will want to read all of them.
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Guest More than 1 year ago
OK, let¿s fact it. You know the minute you pick up one of Nevada Barr¿s Anna Pigeon park ranger mysteries that at some point in the narrative, our intrepid heroine is going to get herself into a life-threatening situation and you are going to be sitting on the edge of your seat unable to put the book down. However, in Blind Descent, Nevada Barr outdoes herself, because the suspense is as thick as the impenetrable darkness Anna Pigeon descends into when she joins a rescue team to bring out an injured park employee from a miles-long mostly unmapped cave in New Mexico¿s Carlsbad Caverns. The injured caver whispered Anna¿s name during a brief moment of consciousness, and so, battling claustrophobia Anna squeezes through tunnels and rappels down rock faces to the side of the injured woman, who confides to Anna, during another moment of lucidity, that she was pushed. Her injury was not an accident. Which one of the handful of people deep in the bowels of this inhospitable underworld did it? And why? Will they kill the injured caver before she can be brought to the surface? And, anyway, what was that sound? A cave creature? One of the many charms of the Anna Pigeon mystery series is that the novels are all set in a different National Park, giving the reader an education in, for example, the behind-the-scenes workings of well-known locations such as Yosemite National Park as described in High Country, the civil war background of the less-known ramparts ruins on the island Dry Tortugas National Park at the tip of the Florida Keys, and the intriguing feeding habits of Glacier National Park grizzly bears in Blood Lure. Therefore, I expected that the almost totally underground setting of Blind Descent would be without charm until I began to read the book. That¿s when I discovered that, au contraire, underground caving, the creation of immense underground caverns, and their discovery is a fascinating subject. And then there¿s our beloved Anna Pigeon, dashing and swash-buckling, at a time in her life when most people are contemplating early retirement, she continues to pull off deeds of daring-do in spite of aching joints and fatigue. I can¿t help myself. I love Anna Pigeon. When I grow up I want to be just like her, except that, uh oh, I am already grown up. OK, so I love to pretend I am her, leaping tall buildings in a single bound, flying faster than a jet plane . . . no, wait a minute, that¿s another super hero. In any case, Anna is as close to a real down-to-earth super heroine as you can get and I love her. Carole Chapman is the author of Blessed, The Golden Ones and its revised, updated version, When We Were Gods.