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From Barnes & NobleI've mentioned before that Nevada Barr's novels are rich with old-fashioned literary values. Too much mystery fiction today depends on gimmicks of one kind or another -- chapters that are 31 words long; looping italicised locutions to indicate the mind of the killer; totally dramatic presentations with virtually no narrative, as if the reader would be put off by it.
Barr reminds me of the literary masters of the past because she takes a wonderfully formal approach to her fiction. She plots extremely well, her scenes inform the senses as well as the mind and heart, and she knows the importance of back story to the essence of good fiction. We are what we were. In addition, she understands pacing. Before the place description (which in Deep South is especially gorgeous) gets too long, she alternates it with some short, punchy humorous scenes. And if the book threatens to get static, she gives us one of her superb action scenes.
Deep South is set just where its title says. It's a little more sociological than usual -- Barr has a nice eye for the differences above and below the Mason-Dixon line -- and a little darker in the way the central crime relates to the theme of the novel. And, as always, Barr gives us a workaday sense of ranger life and the pleasures of bonding with nature. Barr gets better and better; richer, cleverer, deeper, and ever more uniquely herself with each book. In an eminently readable and unpretentious way, she is moving her novels ever closer to mainstream.