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Firestorm (Anna Pigeon Series #4)

Firestorm (Anna Pigeon Series #4)

4.3 37
by Nevada Barr

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An insatiable, unstoppable beast, the wildfire called Jackknife has already devoured 17,000 acres of California's Lassen Volcanic National Park. A devastating force of nature, it has brought out the very best — and worst — in those sworn to defeat it.

Ranger Anna Pigeon is among the exhausted firefighters, serving as medic and spike camp security,


An insatiable, unstoppable beast, the wildfire called Jackknife has already devoured 17,000 acres of California's Lassen Volcanic National Park. A devastating force of nature, it has brought out the very best — and worst — in those sworn to defeat it.

Ranger Anna Pigeon is among the exhausted firefighters, serving as medic and spike camp security, when an abrupt weather shift sends Jackknife racing relentlessly in their direction. And when the monstrous blaze has passed, Anna emerges from her protective shelter to discover two men are dead: one a victim of the hungry flames, the other stabbed through the heart. Now, trapped in a nightmarish landscape of snow and ash, cut off from rescue by a rampaging winter storm, Anna must investigate an inexplicable homicide — as she and nine others struggle to survive the terrible rage if nature. . . and the murderer in their midst.

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 delight...it almost singes you as you turn the pages." — Detroit Free Press

Product Details

Ulverscroft Large Print Books, Ltd.
Publication date:
Anna Pigeon Series , #4
Edition description:
Large Print Edition
Product dimensions:
8.50(w) x 5.50(h) x (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...

What People are Saying About This

From the Publisher

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

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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Firestorm (Anna Pigeon Series #4) 4.3 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 37 reviews.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Best part was the fire scenes and insights into the world of large wildfire fighting. Plot and characaters somewhat plodding & stereotyped.
Guest More than 1 year ago
In attempting to rescue a firefighter with a broken leg, Anna Pigeon and eight other crew members get trapped on the mountain due to a firestorm. As the weather dies down and Anna and her crew leave the safety of their shelters, they do so only to find a man dead, and others severely injured. They must spend two days on the mountain waiting for help, not sure of whom they can trust.

The book was written well, although it seemed as if there was more description than needed. The book seemed to drag on at parts, then speed up at others. The author did a decent job of not revealing the ending of the story until the end. All in all, the book was enjoyable to read.

Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Firestorm was very different from Barr's other Anna Pigeon books. It was a bit slow at times but it was a fairly good read. I especially liked the ending and the insight into Pigeon's character in this type of situation. Stephanie Clanahan
LilyLangtry More than 1 year ago
This fourth in Nevada Barr's Anna Pigeon series is even more "breathtaking" and suspenseful than the previous "Pigeon" novels. Though each compels you to quickly continue to the next, wondering how it could be as compelling as the one you just finished.
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Reading due to a collegiate requirement: The characters frequently go off on tangents at the slightest mention of either the author's description of something or at another character's dialogue. The characters seem somewhat stereotypical and not fully developed. You are almost a third of the way through the book before the plot event to set it off as mystery occurs. Get it from the library, if you absolutely must know what happens to EMT / detective / Park Ranger Anna Pigeon.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
That's okay! Sorry for the confusion! ;) <p> Sapphirestar smiles at Winterkit as she seems to be unafraid of the water. "That's beautiful Winterkit," she purrs, sitting down and tucking her paws under her chest. The area seems calm enough to allow Winterkit to play with a measure of freedom, she even notices a tom whom she vaguely identifies as Missingmoon off in the distance. "Look Winterkit," she says quietly just as a toad waddled up onto the shore, taking time to reenergize itself in the sunlight. The large creature was tired and not very observant, the perfect target for a learning hunter. ^Sapphirestar^
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Sapphirestar walks along side Winterkit in the evening sunlight through meadows of tall grass, with the occasional shrub or tree. "All of this is our land, we are able to hunt, gather medicines, and explore it. Once you're an apprentice you'll be able to come here and train to be a warrior," she meows above the slight breeze. This time of year there are ground squirrels, rabbits, and other small creatures running about in the open everywhere in an attempt to gather food before the first snows of the year. "Look Winterkit," she points out as they turn around a bend and the Oxbow comes into sight. It's the only body of water on their land, but it's large enough to keep the clan well watered throughout the seasons. Gentle waves lap at a small pebble beach that line it, and Sapphirestar takes a quick look around before giving Winterkit the okay to go to it ahead of her. She only notices some deer drinking a good distance away, though she plans on keeping an eye out for coyotes that tend to stalk deer that graze here. "This is where Honeykit found that blue stone," she meows, hoping Winterkit might come across something she likes as well. ^Sapphirestar^