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Deep South (Anna Pigeon Series #8) [NOOK Book]

Overview

Nevada Barr's ever-popular Anna Pigeon series is consistently praised as "exceptional" (Denver Post), "stunning" (Seattle Times), and "superb" (New York Times Book Review). In Deep South, Park Ranger Anna Pigeon heads to Mississippi, only to encounter terrible secrets in the heart of the south?

Anna Pigeon finally gives in to her bureaucratic clock-and signs on for a promotion. Next thing she knows, she's knee-deep in mud and Mississippi. Not ...
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Deep South (Anna Pigeon Series #8)

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Overview

Nevada Barr's ever-popular Anna Pigeon series is consistently praised as "exceptional" (Denver Post), "stunning" (Seattle Times), and "superb" (New York Times Book Review). In Deep South, Park Ranger Anna Pigeon heads to Mississippi, only to encounter terrible secrets in the heart of the south…

Anna Pigeon finally gives in to her bureaucratic clock-and signs on for a promotion. Next thing she knows, she's knee-deep in mud and Mississippi. Not exactly what she had in mind. Almost immediately, as the new district ranger on the Natchez Trace, Anna discovers the body of a young prom queen near a country cemetery, a sheet around her head, a noose around her neck. It's a bizarre twist on a best-forgotten past of frightening racial undertones. As fast as the ever-encroaching kudzu vines of the region, the roots of this story run deep-and threaten to suffocate anyone in the way, including Anna...
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Editorial Reviews

From Barnes & Noble
I'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.

--Ed Gorman

Laurie Davie
In Deep South the landscapes of the various national parks that Anna, and Barr, have worked in ---their sights, sounds, and smells, the very texture of the air...are like vivid characters in the series, as well as Anna's inspiration and sustenance. Read just one of these gripping, witty, and beautifully written mysteries and you'll want to read more.
Romantic Times
KLIATT
To quote KLIATT's review (in this issue) of the Recorded Books audiobook of this title: Barr's eighth novel follows her heroine, National Park Ranger Anna Pigeon, on to the Natchez Trace in Mississippi, where unhelpful male colleagues are the least of her problems. When the body of 16-year-old Danielle Posey is discovered the morning after the prom with a noose around her neck draped in a Klan hood, Anna must use all her wits to find the murderer among a large group of likely suspects. Was it a Klan murder? After all, the white victim had a black boyfriend and her family members are virulent racists. Was it her white football hero prom date, angry at rejection? Was it a local minister who committed suicide shortly after the girl's gory remains were discovered? Anna survives a brutal beating at the hands of the killer and finally finds the unusual motive to the crime. Highly recommended, with caveats for high school listeners. Obscenities, racial slurs, and violence are present but not gratuitous. KLIATT Codes: SA—Recommended for senior high school students, advanced students, and adults. 2000, Berkley, 352p, 18cm, $6.99. Ages 16 to adult. Reviewer: Janet Julian; English Teacher, Grafton H.S., Grafton, MA, March 2001 (Vol. 35 No. 2)
Library Journal
Soon after National Park Service Ranger Anna Pigeon moves to the Natchez Trace Parkway in Mississippi, she discovers the body of a white girl in a remote area of the park. The body has been draped in a sheet and noosed--a twisted reference to Klan killings of the past. As Anna starts to investigate, she faces insubordination from her employees, resentment from the victim's family and friends, and lack of cooperation from the locals who frown upon a Yankee female playing a male role. Anna's life and investigation nearly skid out of control when she discovers that the victim had a secret black lover, a potential witness commits suicide, and the still-at-large killer threatens her. In this eighth Anna Pigeon mystery, Barr (Liberty Falling) paints a luminous picture of the geography and the people of the Natchez Trace. Anna is a delight--a tough, independent, funny, and slightly jaded middle-aged woman in a man's profession. Highly recommended for all public libraries. [Previewed in Prepub Alert, LJ 11/1/99.]--Karen Anderson, Superior Court Law Lib., Phoenix Copyright 2000 Cahners Business Information.
School Library Journal
YA-This eighth mystery in the series, set in the Natchez Trace Parkway, is a real disappointment. When the body of a 15-year-old girl dressed for her prom is found half buried along the old portion of the trail, U.S. Parks Ranger Anna Pigeon must deal with sex discrimination and racial problems as well as adjust to the intricate culture of a small Mississippi town in order to solve the case. The story lacks the exciting plot and tension of some of the series' previous bestsellers such as Firestorm (1996) and Blind Descent (1998, both Putnam). Copyright 2000 Cahners Business Information.|
Publisher's Weekly
Barr produces another suspenseful and highly atmospheric mystery, illuminated even in this now setting by her trademark lyricism in writing about the natural world.
Southern Living
As in her previous books, Nevada Barr weaves captivating descriptions in and around a lively plot that reveals new facets of an always intriguing heroine. Even better news, though: There are still plenty of national parks out there for Anna Pigeon-and her fans.
Bookpage
Nevada Barr's many fans won't be disappointed.
Daneet Steffens
Barr's deft touch with both characters and plot ensures total immersion for the reader, down to the suffocating humidity and swamp stench.
Entertainment Weekly
Bloomsbury Review
As Nevada Barr's growing cult of readers knows, each Anna Pigeon novel is set in a different national park. Steeped in suspense, the fast-paced, brilliantly crafted Deep South brings Anna to the Natchez Trace Parkway in Mississippi, the very same national park in which the author herself was most recently a ranger. On the Natchez Trace, the kudzu is thick and green, the woods are dark and full of secrets, and the ghosts of violence hover as Anna discovers a gruesome murder with frightening racial overtones. Now she must set aside all thoughts of personal safety to find the killer. Deep South proves that "like the parks and monuments she writes of, Nevada Barr should be declared a national treasure.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781440672989
  • Publisher: Penguin Group (USA)
  • Publication date: 2/1/2001
  • Series: Anna Pigeon Series , #8
  • Sold by: Penguin Group
  • Format: eBook
  • Pages: 384
  • Sales rank: 54,253
  • File size: 723 KB

Meet the Author

Nevada  Barr
"Nevada Barr has carved out her own fictional fiefdom, creating a body of work like no other, the San Diego Union Tribune remarked in 1996 upon the publication of the fifth book in Barr’s acclaimed series featuring National Park Service Ranger Anna Pigeon. Since the 1993 publication of the first Anna Pigeon novel, Track of the Cat, which was awarded both the Anthony Award for Best First Novel by The Crime Writers Association and the Agatha Award for Best First Novel by Malice Domestic, Barr has earned a reputation as a talented and much admired writer. As the Chicago Tribune said, “Nevada Barr is a park ranger who can write up a storm.”


The daughter of two pilots, Barr bears the name of the state in which she was born. She grew up at a little mountain airport in Johnsonville, California. After attending college at Cal Poly San Luis Obispo and completing her graduate studies at the University of California at Irvine, she moved to New York City to pursue a career in theater. She stayed there for five years, as a member of the Classic Stage Company, performing in Off-Broadway shows.



From New York, Barr went to Minneapolis, where she tried her hand at more theater work, landed some spots on television commercials, and worked on industrial films, among other things. Her former husband was involved in the Park Service, which inspired her interest in wildlife and conservation, and eventually led to the profession that until recently she shared with her main character: National Park Service Ranger.


When she felt she could afford to, Barr began to work summers at various parks, and spent her winters pursuing a career in writing. She published her first novel, Bittersweet, in 1984, but it was during her tour of duty in Guadalupe Mountains in Texas, that Barr conceived of the Anna Pigeon character and began the series with her critically acclaimed, award-winning debut, Track of the Cat, in 1993. She then followed up with eight more novels set in various National Parks: A Superior Death (1994) set in Mesa Verde National Park in Colorado; Ill Wind (1995) set in Isle Royal National Park in Michigan; Firestorm (1996), which was awarded France’s Prix du Roman d’Adventure and nominated for Anthony Award for Best Novel, set in Lassen Volcanic National Park in California; Endangered Species (1997) set in Georgia’s Cumberland Island National Seashore; Blind Descent (1998) set in Carlsbad Caverns National Park in New Mexico; Liberty Falling (1999) set at Liberty and Ellis Islands in New York City, Deep South (2000), set in the Natchez Trace Parkway in Mississippi, Blood Lure (2001) set in the Waterton National Peace Park in Montana and Canada, Hunting Season (2002) set in the Natchez Trace Parkway.



Biography

Nevada Barr was born in the small western town of Yerington, Nevada and raised on a mountain airport in the Sierras. Both her parents were pilots and mechanics and her sister, Molly, continued the tradition by becoming a pilot for USAir.

Pushed out of the nest, Nevada fell into the theatre, receiving her BA in speech and drama and her MFA in acting before making the pilgrimage to New York City, then Minneapolis, MN. For 18 years she worked on stage, in commercials and industrial training films, and did voice-overs for radio. During this time she became interested in the environmental movement and began working in the National Parks during the summers -- Isle Royale in Michigan, Guadalupe Mountains in Texas, Mesa Verde in Colorado, and then on the Natchez Trace Parkway in Mississippi.

Woven throughout these seemingly disparate careers was the written word. Nevada wrote and presented campfire stories, taught storytelling, and was a travel writer and restaurant critic. Her first novel, Bitterweet, was published in 1983. The Anna Pigeon series, featuring a female park ranger as the protagonist, started when she married her love of writing with her love of the wilderness, the summer she worked in west Texas. The first book, Track of the Cat, was brought to light in 1993 and won both the Agatha and Anthony awards for best first mystery. The series was well received, and A Superior Death, loosely based on Nevada's experiences as a boat patrol ranger on Isle Royale in Lake Superior, was published in 1994. In 1995, Ill Wind came out. It was set in Mesa Verde, Colorado, where Nevada worked as a law enforcement ranger for two seasons. The rest is, shall we say, history.
Biography from author website.

Good To Know

In our interview with Barr, she disclosed three interesting facts about herself:

"I will forget your face and name, but never your stories."

"I love to sing but can clear a concert hall at the drop of a note."

"I lie, but never about the important stuff -- and I get to decide what is the important stuff."

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

Read an Excerpt

Chapter 1

The Rambler's headlights caught a scrap of paper nailed to a tree, a handwritten sign: repent. Darkness swallowed it, and Anna was left with the feeling she was surely on the road to perdition. God knew it was dark enough. Her high beams clawed the grass on the left side of the narrow lane, plowing a furrow so green it looked unnatural: neon green, acid green.

At least it's in color, she thought sourly. Everything she knew--or imagined she did--about Mississippi had been gleaned from grainy black-and-white television footage of the civil rights movement in the sixties.

Her worldly goods in a U-Haul, a shrieking Piedmont in a cat carrier, and an ever-faithful, if occasionally disgusting, hound drooling on her thigh, she'd driven straight through from Mesa Verde National Park in Colorado. Twenty-two hours. And she'd done it the old-fashioned way: without drugs. Caffeine didn't count, and six hours north of Dallas-Fort Worth it had quit having any appreciable effect. A marathon drive seemed the lesser of two evils if one was to be a night in a motel room with Piedmont.

Anna poked a finger through the wire door of the carrier buckled into the passenger side of the bench seat. Taco, the black lab she'd inherited after she'd killed her dear friend and Taco's mistress, insisted on squashing his seventy-five pounds between her and the cat. Wearily celebrating this sign of life from his mistress, he brushed his rubbery tail over her wrist where she reached across him. Piedmont wouldn't even bat at her finger. Eyes squeezed shut, he howled.

"We're almost there," she said plaintively. "Don't you want to rest your throat?" Taco's tail thumped. Piedmont yowled.

"Suit yourself." Anna rolled down the window in the hope that the wind would ameliorate the wailings. Her eyes burned. It was too early and too late. It was pitch dark. It was April 15. She hadn't paid her income taxes, and she was in Mississippi. Only a thin and cracking veneer of civilization kept her from taking up Piedmont's lament.

Another hand-printed sign, this one riddled with bullet holes, flashed out of the night: repent. final warning. Ten miles back, Anna'd started having a bad feeling. Now it was worse. This was not at all what she'd expected the fast track to look like.

At forty-five, she'd finally heeded the ticking of her bureaucratic clock. The appeal of living out her dotage on a GS-9 field ranger's salary had begun to wane. Time had come to plan for the day she'd no longer want to sleep on the ground, swing a pulaski or argue with violent unsavory types. Promotions were not easily had in the National Park Service. First, one had to scour the pink sheets for a job opening one GS level above that currently held. Then one had to have, or fake, the KSAs--knowledge, skills and abilities--called for in the desired position. What made a good ranger at Kenai Fiords might be totally useless at Appomattox Courthouse.

That done, one sent in the application. The government then fiddled around in mysterious ways until half the hopefuls died of old age or went on to other jobs. With luck and timing, an offer eventually came.

Given the givens, it wasn't a good career move to turn a promotion down.
For Anna, the call had come from the Deep South; she had been offered a GS-11 district ranger position in the Port Gibson District of the Natchez Trace Parkway, the section that ran from Jackson to Natchez, Mississippi, ninety miles through the heart of one of the poorest counties in one of the poorest states in the union.

"You'll feel better when the sun rises," she promised herself. "Surely the sun rises even in Mississippi." Taco slathered reassurance on her kneecap.

The air through the window was cool but lacked bite. There'd been snow on the ground when she'd driven down off the mesa above Cortez. Heady scents she didn't recognize swept the cab free of the odor of stale McDonald's fries and cat vomit, but they could not clear the head as the scent of pine or rain on the desert did. Smell was primal. This stirred an image deep in Anna's subconscious. Hunched over the wheel, eyes on the writhing black strip of asphalt, she waited as it struggled up through the layers of fatigue: Dorothy's poppy field, Toto, the lion, the girl, tumbling down in a narcotic dream on the outskirts of the Emerald City.

Flashes of green, unfurling black; the road had a mystic sameness that was stultifying. Maybe she should have stayed on Interstate 20 to Clinton, Mississippi, as the chief ranger had instructed, instead of following the tortuous directions for a shortcut she'd gotten when she called one of her soon-to-be field rangers in Port Gibson, a jovial fellow who called himself Randy.

She rolled the window up. With the sandman already in hot pursuit, the last thing she needed was a hypnotic. The road coiled around on itself in a hairpin turn. She was going too fast. The U-Haul bore down on the Rambler, then drifted, slewing the car to the right. She slammed on the brakes. Taco slid to the floor, clawing her leg in a last bid for stability.

The tail was wagging the dog both inside the Rambler and out. Anna stopped fighting the wheel and steered into the skid as if she was on black ice. In the hectic instant that followed, headlights slicing impossible colors from the night, animal caterwauling foretelling the end of the world, it crossed her mind that black ice was a thing of the past. What would replace it in the way of hazard and adventure, she had yet to find out.

Soundlessly, painlessly, the trailer left the road, dragging the rear wheels of the Rambler with it. The coupled vehicles came to a stop with nary a bump. The car tilted unpleasantly and the red-lighted trailer in the rearview mirror held a drunken pose.

"Everybody okay?" Anna's voice shook, and she was glad only furry and therefore sympathetic ears were there to hear. Taco scrabbled up onto the seat, his untrimmed nails doing the aging vinyl no favors. The engine had died. Anna rested her head on the steering wheel. Regardless of the situation, it was good to be still. Silence, after twenty hours of radio, trucks, tapes and the high-pitched whine of rubber on pavement, hit like the first drink on an empty stomach.

Something warm and wet and vile penetrated her ear, and she remembered she was a dog owner. "Two seconds," she begged.

The tongue insinuated itself into her armpit and Anna gave up. Having pulled the leash from under the cat carrier, she fought the usual battle to overcome the dog's joy at a potential walk long enough to clip it to his collar. "Me first," she insisted, and in a fit of good manners Taco waited till she'd slid clear and stood on shaky legs before bounding out the driver's door. The leash slipped from fingers numbed from too long clutching the wheel, and the black lab loped off toward the taillights of the U-Haul.

"Don't go chasing 'coons or whatever the hell dogs chase down here," she muttered. Outside the car, silence was shattered. Stunned by the sheer magnitude of sound, Anna leaned on the door and listened. A chorus, a choir, a nation of frogs sang from darkness curtained close by trees. Wide and deep, the sound chortled, chirped, tickled underfoot, overhead, from every direction. Basso profundo croaks, rough and guttural, were buoyed up by a cacophony of lesser notes.

Big croaks.

Big damn frogs, she thought. Or alligators. She'd seen live free-range alligators a few times when she'd been on assignment on Cumberland Island off the coast of Georgia, but they hadn't uttered a word in her presence. Without questioning it, she'd come away with the idea gators were dumb. Maybe that wasn't so. Mississippi had a whole new natural history she would have to learn.

Big frogs, she decided for the moment, and turned to follow in Taco's paw prints, to see what, if any, damage had been done. One step and she was on her butt, amazed and outraged but otherwise unhurt.

Wet grass lay over earth as liquid and slippery as warm Jell-O. A good surface to take a fall on. A foul surface to try and pull an over-loaded trailer off of--or out of, as the case might be.

Using the door, she pulled herself upright. Slipping and grabbing in a parody of a vintage Jerry Lewis routine, she made it around the Rambler's hood and onto the asphalt. By the glare of the headlights she saw she was covered from the elbows down in caramel-colored liquid. Taco padded up next to her, grinning in idiotic doggie bliss. "We're not in the desert anymore, Taco," she said, paraphrasing Dorothy's observation as she wrenched open the passenger door to fumble under the seat for a towel and a flashlight.

Piedmont had not stopped complaining. "You're getting on my very last nerve," she warned the cat. He remained unimpressed.

Flashlight and towel in hand, she closed the door on the vocalization of feline suffering. The towel smelled of things that had once been on the inside of the cat and the flashlight beam was only slightly less brown than the Mississippi mud, but it would suffice.

Taco danced like a puppy, though Anna figured him to be five or six at least, then dashed off to the rear of the little caravan, yipping and grumbling as if the news was not good for humans but extremely entertaining for dogs.

Anna followed, her moccasins squishing at each step. Frog music, velvet darkness, and perfumed air all closed around her, and the walk of twenty feet took on a bizarre timelessness. She'd been too long on the road.

At the back of the U-Haul she stopped and stared. Taco leapt about with glee. "This can't be right," she said stupidly.

Caught in the demon eyes of the taillights, a tree, a foot in diameter where it leaned against the bumper, lay over the trailer. Leafy boughs embraced the orange and white metal. Roots poked out of the ground, bent and angry as arthritic hands where the tree had been uprooted by the force of impact. Except there'd been no impact. Nothing but a gentle slide into this oblivion of sentient and predatory plant materials. Had she dozed off behind the wheel? She didn't think so, but it wasn't out of the realm of possibility.

Too dull with lack of sleep to do much else, she played her pathetic light over the rear of the trailer. No scrapes, no dents, therefore no impact. Unfortunately, logic had no effect on the tree. A locust, she guessed, twenty-five or thirty feet tall, had her vehicles in a death grip. If she pulled forward, the half-buried roots would act as an anchor and she'd dig herself into the slime. Back, and she'd ram the topmost branches down over the trailer and onto the roof of the car.

"Well, shit," she confided in the dog and stood a moment hoping things would be different. She could unhitch the trailer, drive off and return for it--or what was left of it--with the proper equipment. Assuming the Natchez Trace Parkway had the proper equipment.

Home was in that white and orange box, and a deep unsettling unease boiled up at the thought of leaving it on the side of a strange road in a strange land.

"Shit," she reiterated.

Headlights rounded the corner from the direction she'd come. In proper rabbit fashion, she stared into them. Engine noise and the metallic complaint of a derelict truck momentarily quieted the frogs. Fear, not even a thought before, sprang full-blown from some Yankee collective unconscious. James Dickey and Burt Reynolds, Ned Beatty and "squeal like a pig." Mississippi Burning, "I have a dream," and chain gangs in the cotton fields. Nothing personal, nothing even secondhand, yet Anna had been fed a nightmare of the rednecked heart of Dixie.

The truck clattered to a stop and was instantly enveloped by a toxic cloud of exhaust. A plaid-covered elbow hung out the window. Above it, thrust into the pale beam of Anna's flash, was a round face under a beat-up ball cap.

"Lady, you look to be in a whole heap of hurt." The voice was thick, its owner talking around a wad of chewing tobacco the size of a golf ball. Anna blinked, waiting to see if her leg was being pulled or if he really talked that way.

"A whole heap of hurt," he repeated.

"Looks like it," she said. Taco wandered back to resume guard dog duties. He leaned against her muddy thigh, beating a canine welcome on the bumper with his tail.

"Hunter?" the moon-pie face asked.

"Tourist," Anna said, too tired to explain about jobs and transfers.

The man's pale face split into a laugh, and Anna saw, or thought she saw, streaks of tobacco juice on his teeth. Her old Colt .357 wheel gun was in the glove box. The thought comforted her as she edged in that direction.

"What did she say, Baby?" a creaking voice cut through the one-sided hilarity.

"Tourist."

Ancient laughter crackled from the window, leaking around the man Anna could see.

"Not you," the driver managed, merriment abated. "Your dog. He a huntin' dog?"

"Tourist," Anna said again.

"What, Baby?"

"Tourist dog, Daddy." Much laughter. Anna found herself inclined to join in but was afraid it would turn to hysteria.

"Get on with it, Baby. I got work to do," came a querulous creaking from the invisible passenger.

The round face sobered, the wad of chaw was more securely stowed in the cheek and "Baby" got down to business. "Daddy wants to know if y'all need a hand."

By way of reply, Anna shined her failing light on the locust clutching her trailer. The verdant embrace struck her funny bone, comedy of the absurd, and she laughed. "You wouldn't happen to have a chainsaw on you, would you?"

Baby looked at her as if she was a half-wit, then said to the darkness beyond his shoulder: "Lady needs a chainsaw, Daddy."

Anna heard the unhappy notes of bent metal being forced as the passenger door of the truck opened and closed. Taco whined and wagged. Rummaging noises emanated from the pickup bed, then an old man--somewhere between sixty and biblical--came around the end of the truck, red brake lights lending his shrunken cheeks and spindly silhouette a devilish cast. In his left hand was a chainsaw with a twenty-four-inch blade.

"Whatcher need cut? That tree you backed on into?"

Anna was torn between efficiency and dignity. Efficiency lost. "I didn't back into it," she defended herself. "I slid ever so gently into the muck and, bingo, a tree was on me." Pretty lame, but it was the best she could do.

Daddy nodded. "Loess," he said, leaving her no wiser. "Melts like sugar. Back the truck up, Baby. You're just an accident waitin' to happen. Back on up now," he admonished sharply as the younger man started to pull ahead. "Git those headlights on the job. You know that."

Gears grated, meshed, and the truck lumbered back till the headlights threw the old man, the trailer and the tree into garish relief. Anna shaded her eyes from the glare and watched as, one-handed, Daddy drop-started the chainsaw and began cutting away the locust, smaller branches first. Baby, out of the truck so Anna could see the full effect, wore overalls over a plaid shirt and heavy boots. As his father cut, he swamped, hauling away the branches, some as big around as Anna's leg. Early on she offered to help but was warned she'd get herself "all over poison ivy" and so desisted. Pride was one thing, poison ivy quite another. She'd had it once and counted herself among the sadder but wiser girls.

The tree was quickly disposed of. A chain, appearing from the same rubble of necessities that had camouflaged the chainsaw, was hooked around the Rambler's bumper, and fifteen minutes start to finish, Baby and Daddy had Anna back on the road. Sensing an offer of money would be offensive, she thanked them by volunteering information about herself, an intellectual breaking of bread to indicate trust and a willingness to share as they had shared their time and strength with her.

"I got a job on the Natchez Trace," she told them after giving her name. "I'm working for the Park Service there in Port Gibson." She was careful not to mention she was in law enforcement. Either it made people feel as if they had to take a stand on the gender issue or it inspired them to relate every story they'd ever heard where a cop had done somebody dirt. Still, Baby and Daddy looked blank.`

"The Trace there by Port Gibson?" Daddy said at last. The old man leaned on the front of the pickup, the single working headlight shining past his scrawny red-cotton-covered chest in a rural depiction of the sacred heart painting that hung in the hall of Mercy High, where Anna had attended boarding school. "Then what're you doing in these parts beside getting yourself stuck?"

It was Anna's turn to look blank. "Going to the Natchez Trace?" she asked hopefully.

"Nope," Daddy said.

"You're going nowhere," Baby added helpfully.

"That's pretty much it," Daddy confirmed.

"One of the rangers I talked to on the phone said this was a shortcut."

Daddy and Baby found that inordinately amusing. Gratitude was fading, but Anna hadn't the energy to replace it with anything but pathos so she maintained her good cheer. At least outwardly.

"What you want is Highway 27 out of Vicksburg," Baby told her, and aimed a stream of tobacco juice politely the other way. "Where you're at starts out as Old Black Road and ends up as nothing down on the river. It's where me and Daddy goes fishing. All's down there is moccasins and mosquitoes."

"I must have read the directions wrong," Anna said.

"Way wrong. Those old boys was having a joke and you were it," Daddy said succinctly. "You go on a couple miles'n you'll see a place to turn around. Then you go back the way you come twenty miles or so. You'll find 27. If you hit the interstate, you gone too far."

Anna thanked them again. They waited. She waited. Then she realized they weren't leaving till they saw her safe in her car and on her way. Having loaded Taco, she climbed in the Rambler and pulled back into the twisted night.

Daddy was right. She'd not misread the directions; she'd followed them to the letter. One of her rangers wasn't anxious to see her arrive: Randy Thigpen, a GS-9 field ranger she'd be supervising. Anna wished she could dredge up some surprise at the petty betrayal, but she was too old and too cynical. Nobody involved in the hiring process had come right out and said anything, and in these days of rampant litigation and gender skirmishes, they wouldn't dare. But she'd heard the subtext in the pauses. There'd never been a female law enforcement ranger on the far southern end of the Trace, and there'd never been a female district ranger in any of the nine districts and four hundred fiftyÐodd miles of the parkway. It had been unofficially deemed too conservative, too old-fashioned for such an alarming development. From the gossip she'd picked up, she was hired because she was known to have an "edge." She was an experiment. They would find if she was to be a cat among the pigeons or the other way around. The "old-fashioned" people, Anna had thought, would be the park visitors. Randy Thigpen evidently wanted to carry the experiment into the office.

Jump off that bridge when you come to it, she told herself.


When she finally found her way onto the Trace, the sun was rising and, with it, her spirits. The vague picture she'd formed in her mind of a bleak and dusty place, overfarmed by sharecroppers, dotted with shacks and broken-down vehicles, was shattered in a rainbow brilliance of flowers. "Wake up, Taco," she said, nudging the beast with her knee. "Hang your head out the window or something useful. The place looks like it's been decorated for a wedding."

The Natchez Trace Parkway, a two-lane road slated, when finished, to run from Nashville, Tennessee, to Natchez, Mississippi, had been the brainchild of the Ladies' Garden Clubs in the south. Besides preserving a unique part of the nation's past, the federal government had believed, building the Trace would pump money, jobs and a paved road into what was then a depressed area. Unlike other scenic parkways, such as the Blue Ridge in Tennessee or the John D. Rockefeller Jr. National Parkway in Wyoming, the Trace would not be based on spectacular scenery but would conserve the natural and agricultural history of Mississippi. It would follow and, where possible, preserve the original trail made through the swamps and forest by Kentucks, entrepreneurs out of what would become Kentucky, walking back home after rafting goods down the Mississippi to be sold at the port in Natchez, and by the outlaws who preyed upon them, by Indians trading and warring and finally by soldiers of the Union Army bent on bringing the South to heel.

This morning no ghost of the violence remained. Mile after mile, the road dipped and turned gracefully through rich fields, grassy meadows, shoulders bright in red clover, daffodils, pink joe-pye weed and a water-blue flower Anna didn't recognize. Dogwood blossoms winked through the spring woods. Purple wisteria, vines covering trees fifty feet high, draped to the ground. Red bud trees added crimson patches. Carolina jasmine, yellow falls of blooms, draped over fences and downed timber. And there was no traffic. Not a single car coming or going. The dreamlike quality of the frog-song-filled night was carrying over into the light of day.

After twelve miles of garden beauty, the road widened briefly into four lanes and Anna saw the sign for Rocky Springs Campground.

"We're home," she told the animals. The words sounded mocking, though she'd not meant them that way. Mississippi was about as far from home as Anna had ever been, if not in miles, then in mind.

Reprinted from Deep South by Nevada Barr by permission of G. P. Putnam's Sons, a member of Penguin Putnam Inc. Copyright (c) 2000 by Nevada Barr. All rights reserved. This excerpt, or any parts thereof, may not be reproduced in any form without permission.
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See All Sort by: Showing 1 – 20 of 24 Customer Reviews
  • Anonymous

    Posted October 22, 2014

    Needs work

    This particular Anna Pigeon book was pretty good but the author should have done more homework on what it is like in Mississippi. I can only assume that Bar is a Northerner who refuses to understand the proper use of the term "ya'll." I also resent how she made the state appear as a place crawling with racism. Maybe she should have spent a little quality time in the south doing her research before trying to write about it.

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  • Posted December 14, 2012

    Nevada Barra is amazing in her ability to catch regional charact

    Nevada Barra is amazing in her ability to catch regional characteristics without falling into stereotypes. Her characters have their own uniqueness within their own settings. Refreshingly, her characters are not simply divided into "good" and "bad", but are much richer and more complex than those limitations.

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  • Posted December 5, 2009

    OF THE BARR SERIES.... THIS WAS DEEPER

    If you would enjoy a verbal tour of our national parks, this series is for you. Barr truly does a fine job painting pictures for the reader.
    Of this series, Deep South has a depth to the storyline that is dark and well written. While the park details are as visual as other Barr tales, this story is more startling.
    Great book and series for rainy days and personal entertainment.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted October 13, 2004

    TERRIFIC STORY AND CHARACTERS

    THIS IS MY FAVORITE NEVADA BARR STORY SO FAR. THIS MYSTERY KEEPS THE READER GUESSING RIGHT UP TO THE LAST CHAPTER. GOOD USE OF HUMOR WITH A SOUTHERN SETTING.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted August 1, 2004

    Barr delivers another great read...

    Nevada Barr delivers another great read. From the very beginning she grabs your attention and holds it until the very last page. I recommend this book to anyone who loves nature and a good mystery. I hope there are more stories featuring the trio of Anna, Taco the Lab and Piedmont the cat.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted April 20, 2001

    Nevada Barr is a master of synonym & gets better with every book

    Nevada Barr is a terrific writer. She has the ability to bring you to near claustrophobia as you wriggle your way through a cave miles underground (Blind Descent), feel the smoke clinging to your clothes from a forest fire (Firestorm), come up gasping for air from an underwater dive (Superior Death) & swear off beef forever (Track of the Cat). In ¿Deep South¿ Barr brings us to Natchez Trace National Park, Mississippi¿a place I¿ve never been & no doubt won¿t be going in this lifetime, yet I¿ve been there. District Ranger, Anna Pigeon has just arrived with her dog, Taco & cat, Piedmont as the park¿s first female ranger Before she¿s able to establish friendly relations with her co-workers, she stumbles on the body of a young girl. She has a white hood around her head & a rope around her neck. It looks like the work of a KKK group, but looks can be deceiving, as Anna discovers. From there the story runs the gamut: teenage angst, racism, sexism, drugs & alcohol, homosexuality & Civil War re-enactors. I¿ve read every book in the Anna Pigeon series, & this was not my favorite setting or subject matter. Yet, Barr¿s writing is compelling enough to keep me reading & actually enjoying myself at the same time. Barr is a master at synonym & gets better with every book. In one scene Anna arrives at the rundown rural home of the victim¿s parents. Barr uses the following synonym: ¿A decrepit barn, with derelict automobiles nosed up to the weathered wood like piglets to a sow, stood to one side.¿ Terrific! The character of Anna Pigeon is successful because she is flawed just enough to be real; nearly superhuman at times, yet not so much so that she doesn¿t remain in the end, vulnerable. And rather than being disappointed, we love her for it. In her usual fashion, the author parades her varied cast of characters before us. None are so perfect that they couldn¿t have somehow been involved, leaving us suspecting nearly everyone, yet never really sure until the end. I always feel kinship with Anna¿s love of nature & wildlife. She says in so many words the way I feel about nature & those who choose to defile it, about Wildlife & those who don¿t respect its right to exist. This is a good book. Anna Pigeon fans will not be disappointed.

    0 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted January 11, 2000

    Deep South

    Attitude not miles counts when measuring the distance between Colorado's Mesa Verde National Park and the Port Gibson District of the Natchez Trace Parkway. Federal Park law enforcement official Anna Pigeon learns that lesson when she accepts a promotion transfer to the South. However, Anna soon learns that the 'ole boy' network still thrives in the South, especially when she concludes that her all male deputies resent working for a mere female. Their sexism reaches dangerous proportions when they refuse to provide Anna back up during a potentially emergency situation...... Anna's sense of oppression fully surfaces when someone kills a teenage white girl following the prom. The victim was stomped to death. A white sheet with slits cut out for the eyes covered her face. A rope hung loosely around her neck. Someone made it look like the work of the KKK. As she begins her investigation into the racially charged crime, Anna learns how deep hatred flows in the hearts and souls of some bigots.... Surprisingly, DEEP SOUTH has a literary feel that counterbalances the repulsive almost overwhelming loathing that is the creed of some of the characters. This juxtaposition adds chilling drama to a well-designed mystery. Anna's adjustment to her new home augments the tense story line by her battle with racism and sexism. Nevada Barr condemns the rural south for its deep-rooted prejudices, even as the author applauds the fact that discrimination is more in the open than the de facto segregation of most of the rest of the country. The openness and honest feelings allows Anna to deal with anything thrown her way. The social commentary cleverly wraps inside an excellent police procedural without slowing down the main plot.

    0 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted December 9, 2008

    more from this reviewer

    Deep South

    Attitude not miles counts when measuring the distance between Colorado's Mesa Verde National Park and the Port Gibson District of the Natchez Trace Parkway. Federal Park law enforcement official Anna Pigeon learns that lesson when she accepts a promotion transfer to the South. However, Anna soon learns that the 'ole boy' network still thrives in the South, especially when she concludes that her all male deputies resent working for a mere female. Their sexism reaches dangerous proportions when they refuse to provide Anna back up during a potentially emergency situation. <P>Anna's sense of oppression fully surfaces when someone kills a teenage white girl following the prom. The victim was stomped to death. A white sheet with slits cut out for the eyes covered her face. A rope hung loosely around her neck. Someone made it look like the work of the KKK. As she begins her investigation into the racially charged crime, Anna learns how deep hatred flows in the hearts and souls of some bigots. <P>Surprisingly, DEEP SOUTH has a literary feel that counterbalances the repulsive almost overwhelming loathing that is the creed of some of the characters. This juxtaposition adds chilling drama to a well-designed mystery. Anna's adjustment to her new home augments the tense story line by her battle with racism and sexism. Nevada Barr condemns the rural south for its deep-rooted prejudices, even as the author applauds the fact that discrimination is more in the open than the de facto segregation of most of the rest of the country. The openness and honest feelings allows Anna to deal with anything thrown her way. The social commentary cleverly wraps inside an excellent police procedural without slowing down the main plot. <P>Harriet Klausner

    0 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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    Posted November 9, 2011

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    Posted August 19, 2012

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    Posted May 17, 2009

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