Firestorm (Anna Pigeon Series #4)

Firestorm (Anna Pigeon Series #4)

4.2 39
by Nevada Barr

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As part of the army battling the Jackknife fire in northern California's Lassen Volcanic National Park, Anna, in her capacity as spike camp medic and security officer, tends the injuries and the frayed nerves of the firefighters. When the National Weather Service predicts a cold front followed by snow, promising to all but extinguish the fire, the camp is demobilized,… See more details below


As part of the army battling the Jackknife fire in northern California's Lassen Volcanic National Park, Anna, in her capacity as spike camp medic and security officer, tends the injuries and the frayed nerves of the firefighters. When the National Weather Service predicts a cold front followed by snow, promising to all but extinguish the fire, the camp is demobilized, but a last-minute rescue of a firefighter with a broken leg detains Anna and the San Juan crew. Driven on by the erratic thunderstorm of the front, wind shears in the steep canyon, creating the deadly weather conditions for a firestorm. As the ravine explodes in flames propelled by the racing winds, the crew tries desperately to outrun the blaze, ultimately seeking refuge in their individual silver fire shelters wryly referred to as shake 'n' bakes. When the fire finally passes, Anna emerges from her shelter to check on the fate of her companions. The sound of each exhausted voice, the sight of each bruised and blackened figure, is cause for celebration - until one member of the crew is found inside his shelter with a knife in his back. With darkness comes snow, making immediate rescue impossible, and Anna must tend to the physical and emotional wounds of the crew while seeking the identity of the murderer in their midst.

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Editorial Reviews

Washington Post Book World
Gripping. . .Harrowing. . .Brilliantly Executed.
Orlando Sentinel
One Scary Book. . .Firestorm is Intense.
New York Times Book Review
Thrilling. . .Remarkable.
Detroit Free Press
A Delight. . .A scorching, baffling tale. . .It almost singes you as you turn the pages.
Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
As she's seen in her fourth spine-tingling adventure, it's hard to tell what impassions hard-nosed park ranger Anna Pigeon more-crime or grime. Fortunately, Barr (Ill Wind) has a flair for depicting both as she sets Anna to providing first aid for the crews fighting an especially nasty forest fire, probably caused by arson, in Northern California's Lassen Volcanic National Park. As if living intimately with strangers under stressful conditions weren't trouble enough, more problems flare when Anna and her EMTs must rescue a firefighter who has broken his leg. On their way back to camp, they are trapped in a firestorm-the most dangerous of all fire conditions. Anna is saved by her silver pup tent, or "shake 'n' bake," which she pulls over herself at the last minute as the fire dances on her back. One of the other medics isn't so lucky. Only it's not just bad luck. It's murder. The tension approaches unbearable when bad weather and destroyed roads trap Anna and the rest of her crew with the murderer in their midst. While Anna, with her compassion, toughness and abundant one-liners, calls Kinsey Milhone to mind, Barr's character is a true original. And for excitement, her line of work can't be beat. Mystery Guild selection; author tour. (Mar.)
Library Journal
Park ranger Anna Pigeon, star of Barr's popular series (e.g, Ill Wind, Putnam, 1995), here battles fire and snow while investigating the inevitable murder.
School Library Journal
YAFar from her base park of Mesa Verde, Anna Pigeon volunteers as a medic at a spike camp of firefighters battling the Jackknife blaze in Northern California. With the fire diminishing, the last crew is called back, but Anna, her co-medic, their litter-bound patient, and other firefighters are unexpectedly trapped in a firestorm. When the fire blazes past on its destructive trail, Anna discovers a dead firefighter in his shelter, killed by a knife. This gripping adventure is heightened by a strong sense of place. Trapped for several days in cold and fog and surviving on broiled woodchuck, Anna must determine the identity of the killer before the group is rescued. The surprising ending delivers a pretzel-shaped twist that will haunt readers.Pam Spencer, Fairfax County Public Schools, VA
Emily Melton
Anna Pigeon, Barr's down-to-earth heroine, is a delight, with her no-nonsense approach to crime solving and her commonsense approach to life. Anna's latest adventure takes her to northern California, where a forest fire is burning out of control. As the fire-company medic, Anna is responsible not only for battling the blaze but also for handling cuts, burns, wounds, and whatever else ails the brave band of firefighters. She's also the main security officer, which means that when tempers flare or violence threatens, Anna must cool down more than the fire. That takes some doing after one of the men is found dead with a knife thrust deep into his side. Being trapped in the camp with no food and a winter storm on the way unsettles the firefighters, especially since it's clear that one of them is a killer. It's up to Anna to find out who it is before he or she can strike again. Top-flight entertainment.
Kirkus Reviews
Another routine assignment for National Park Ranger Anna Pigeon—doubling as medic and security for a firefighting camp fighting a blaze in California's Lassen Volcanic Park—turns into a nightmare when the snowstorm that promised relief from the flames instead whips them up into a firestorm, isolating Anna's spike camp and leaving two firefighters dead: one from the fire, a second from a knife in his back. Somebody's interrupted Leonard Nims's training as crew boss by creeping into his form-fitting one-person shelter and stabbing him to death. With no hope of quick rescue or backup investigators, Anna holds onto her sanity by wondering why anybody would commit a murder at the height of a firestorm. It's only the first tantalizing riddle she'll wrestle with, even as Frederick Stanton, the FBI agent Anna keeps running into, jets out to Lassen to brief her over the radio on the nine suspects trapped on the freezing, burned-out landscape with her. Stanton's earnest, endless, highly salient briefings are a drag, but Anna, surrounded by an exceptionally well-developed cast, shines as ranger, detective, and heroine—truly a woman for all seasons.

Anna's fourth appearance (Ill Wind, 1995, etc.) is a superior puzzler wrapped in her most exciting adventure yet: a stellar performance on every count. No matter what you read mysteries for, it's in here.

From the Publisher
"A brilliantly executed mystery." — Washington Post Book World  "A almost singes you as you turn the pages."Detroit Free Press

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Product Details

HarperCollins Publishers
Publication date:
Anna Pigeon Series, #4
Product dimensions:
4.38(w) x 6.80(h) x 0.92(d)

Read an Excerpt

Chapter One

If she'd had a foot fetish Anna would have been an extremely happywoman. Cradled in her lap was a prime example of pedis giganticus belonging to one Howard Black Elk. More mole foam than fleshwas visible.

"Fighting on slopes keeps tearing 'em off," Mr. Black Elk told her between gulps of Mountain Dew. "Anybody but you does 'em they're gone by lunch. You got the touch."

Absurd as it was, Anna took great pride in the durability of her blister dressings. Caesar's army may have moved on its stomach, but firefighters moved on their feet. After ten days, of skirmishes, the army battling California's jackknife Fire was proceeding a bit gingerly. The line queued up outside the medical, unit tent was Anna's barometer, and the pressure was rising. Sho-Rap, the Shoshone and Arapaho firefighting crew out of Montana, seemed, to suffer more thanmost. Maybe because they were big men. Even with the protective fire boots they were required to wear, gravity hit them harder.

Anna eased the ruined dressings off Mr. Black Elk's foot and examined the carnage. Black Elk was an Arapaho Indian but he wasn't with the Sho-Raps. He was a member of the San Juan crew from the southwest. "You busted open the blisters," she accused.

"Got to let 'em drain."

"No you don't. They'll get infected." She looked into the man's face to see if she was getting through to him. "Are you going to quit that?"

"You betcha."

Anna didn't believe him. She cleaned the ball of his foot and his heel with hydrogen peroxide. When he winced at the sting she said, "Serves you right."

A heady sense of Normandy, Tripoli, John Wayne and Twelve O'ClockHigh reverberated through fire camps. Like everyone else, Anna reveled in, it. A soldier's life-particularly in a war where death was highly unlikely and the battle soon over — was a life enhanced with an illusion of importance untrammeled by responsibility. Orders were simple: climb, stop and dig. Hard physical labor and the ability to sleep on rough ground were all that was asked. Anna found peace in the freedom from choices.

With great care, she began reconstructing the protective barriers of foam, Second-Skin and bandages on Mr. Black Elk's foot. The rest of San Juan Plateau crew began drifting over from the chow line to swell the ranks waiting for medical attention.

The San Juans were an interagency crew with firefighters from the Forest Service, the Bureau of Land Management and the, National Park Service.Three of the firefighters were from Mesa Verde National Park, Anna's duty station. Anna had arrived independently when the call went out for more emergency medical technicians to man the medical units.

These units provided care to the firefighters in the spike camps. As the Jackknife cut a black swath through the Caribou Wilderness and Lassen Volcanic National Park in northern California, Incident Base — the maincamp housing supplies and command headquarters — needed units closer tothe fireline. Small camps, called "spikes" by firefighters though officialdom no longer used the term, were springing up like fire moss.

"You guys with blisters go ahead and take the dressings off and clean your feet with peroxide," Anna said to those waiting. "I think Stephen's got a spare bottle."'

"Go easy with the stuff," Stephen Lindstrom, the other EMT, said. "We won't have any more till tomorrow afternoon."

Lindstrom was with the Forest Service out of Reno, Nevada. When Anna and three crews had been spiked out nineteen miles from base camp, she'd begged for and gotten him. Efficient and gentle, he was one of the better EMTs she'd worked with.

"How 'bout I get you some dinner before them hogs swill it all down?"

Anna looked in the direction of the familiar Memphis plus drawl. Jennifer Short, a seasonal law enforcewent ranger from Mesa Verde, leaned against a sugar pine near the outdoor examination room Anna and Stephen had piecedtogether from a ground cloth and twelve folding chairs.

Jennifer had been on the Jackknife fire for seven days, one day less than Anna, and she was still wearing makeup. Anna couldn't help but admire her. Anybody who stuck to their beliefs under duress deserved respect The sooty fingerprints around her nose and the trails of sweat running through her dust-coated rouge only added to the effect: bloody but unbowed.

"Thanks," Anna said. "Stephen, want some supper?" Belatedly she askedJennifer, "Would you mind?"

"Why I'd just lie down and die if he said no," Jennifer said, and winked.

Dividing her time between bites and blisters, Anna managed to finish he rsupper and thirteen feet in the next hour. Kneeling at the fourteenth and last, she began unlacing a well-worn, custom-made White's fire boot. "Helps if you remove your boots for me," she said mildly.

"My feet's not what hurt."

Anna rocked back on her heels and took in the face attached to the expensive boots. "San Juan crew, crew boss, right?"

"John LeFleur." The firefighter stuck out a hand with spatulate fingers reminiscent of the toes of Amazon ram forest frogs Anna'd seen hopping through various PBS specials. She forced herself up from her knees.Cold, fatigue and hard beds were taking their toll. Getting old, shechided herself. once-hard work had made her tougher, now it only made her fired. she stuck out her hand and, tying for a pressure that was manly without being macho, took LeFleur's.

His bottom lipwas swollen and bruised, Dried blood caked where the skin had split. "Does Your face hurt?" she asked. The third-grade insult, "Because it's sure killing me," flickered nonsensically through her mind, but John LeFleur certainly wasn't hard to look at Anna had him pegged for forty-five or so — his hair was still...

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From the Publisher

"A brilliantly executed mystery." -- Washington Post Book World "A almost singes you as you turn the pages." -- Detroit Free Press

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