A Superior Death (Anna Pigeon Series #2)

( 36 )

Overview

Park ranger Anna Pigeon returns, in a mystery that unfolds in and around Lake Superior, in whose chilling depths sunken treasure comes with a deadly price. In her latest mystery, Nevada Barr sends Ranger Pigeon to a new post amid the cold, deserted, and isolated beauty of Isle Royale National Park, a remote island off the coast of Michigan known for fantastic deep-water dives of wrecked sailing vessels. Leaving behind memories of the Texas high desert and the environmental scam she helped uncover, Anna is ...

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Overview

Park ranger Anna Pigeon returns, in a mystery that unfolds in and around Lake Superior, in whose chilling depths sunken treasure comes with a deadly price. In her latest mystery, Nevada Barr sends Ranger Pigeon to a new post amid the cold, deserted, and isolated beauty of Isle Royale National Park, a remote island off the coast of Michigan known for fantastic deep-water dives of wrecked sailing vessels. Leaving behind memories of the Texas high desert and the environmental scam she helped uncover, Anna is adjusting to the cool damp of Lake Superior and the spirits and lore of the northern Midwest. But when a routine application for a diving permit reveals a grisly underwater murder, Anna finds herself 260 feet below the forbidding surface of the lake, searching for the connection between a drowned man and an age-old cargo ship. Written with a naturalist's feel for the wilderness and a keen understanding of characters who thrive in extreme conditions, A Superior Death is a passionate, atmospheric page-turner.

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Editorial Reviews

Denver Post
Haunting. . .Wonderful. . .Vivid and Memorable. . .A Book That Is Just About Perfect.
New York Times Book Review
Nevada Barr writes with a cool, steady hand about the violence of nature and the cruelty of man.
Washington Post Book World
A wonderful satisfying read.
Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
In her second appearance, after Track of the Cat , National Park Service ranger Anna Pigeon is posted to an island in Lake Superior, where her interest in wildlife is fully engaged by the local population of humans. Two scuba-diving tourists exploring an old, submerged wreck discover a recent addition: the body of Denny Castle, who ran a commercial diving concession in the park. This makes Anna uneasy about the mysterious disappearance of Donna Butkus, wife of fellow ranger Scotty Butkus. Hawk Bradshaw, who worked with Denny, suggests that there was a link between Denny and Donna, but Hawk is less revealing about the nature of the relationship he and his twin sister had with the dead man and the impact Denny's recent marriage (to yet another woman) had on it. The Bradshaws aren't the only reticent ones here; indeed, Barr's characters hide enough unsavory secrets to keep a soap opera humming for months. Despite the wealth of personal intrigue, FBI agent Frederic Stanton looks for a drug connection to the murder: ``I'm all for drugs . . . Takes the guesswork out of law enforcement.'' The levelheaded Anna is again a treat as she and a couple of minor characters whose lives don't verge on melodrama keep the story from floundering on the rocks. Mystery Guild alternate; paperback rights to Avon. (Mar.)
School Library Journal
YA-Transferring to a ranger position at Isle Royale National Park in Michigan, Anna Pigeon misses the Texas sun and heat of her former park. She cringes at the damp, penetrating cold that accompanies the foggy, gray days on Lake Superior. She swaps her horse for a boat but continues to be surrounded by dead bodies in her second mystery. The strange corpse she encounters on her new job is that of a well-known diver. She finds it in the engine room of a ship that sank at the turn of the century with the five original crew still aboard. Those corpses have been preserved by the frigid lake waters and are a grim ``tourist attraction'' for scuba divers. As Anna seeks the identity of the killer, she is never far from the northern woods, characterized by their earthy scents, lingering midday chill, and multitude of flora and fauna. While detecting, she tries to sort out her feelings about life, her status as a widow, and her need for solitude interspersed with friendships. She is a captivating, daredevil detective whose adventures will delight mystery readers.-Pam Spencer, Thomas Jefferson Sci-Tech, Fairfax County, VA
Emily Melton
Barr has written an intriguing if unusual story that successfully combines a refreshing enthusiasm for nature, an impassioned entreaty for environmental awareness, and an engrossing murder mystery. Leaving Texas to take a job in northern Michigan, park ranger Anna Pigeon soon becomes involved in a puzzling murder involving a drowned diver and a mysterious shipwreck. Her investigation puts her in touch with some odd characters, including Pizza Dave, who's as large as a small tractor, and Holly and Hawk, a brother and sister dive team whose love for the briny deep hides a dark secret. Between extracting fish hooks from the limbs of amateur fishermen, instructing naive tourists about the local wildlife, and corralling drunken boaters, Anna puts her considerable skills toward solving the puzzle of who killed the diver and why. Barr, a park ranger, provides plenty of authentic details about life in the great outdoors, and her deft plotting and appealingly quirky characters give her story plenty of punch. Anna Pigeon is tough-minded, strong, sensitive, vulnerable, and funny.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780425194713
  • Publisher: Penguin Group (USA) Incorporated
  • Publication date: 8/19/2003
  • Series: Anna Pigeon Series , #2
  • Format: Mass Market Paperback
  • Pages: 320
  • Sales rank: 157,945
  • Product dimensions: 4.30 (w) x 6.84 (h) x 0.90 (d)

Meet the Author

Nevada  Barr
Nevada Barr
A former actress, restaurant critic, and National Park Service ranger, Nevada Barr is best known for her bestselling series of mysteries starring her intrepid heroine -- and alter ego -- Anna Pigeon.

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 One



These killers of fish, she thought, will do anything.

Through the streaming windscreen Anna could just make out a pale shape bobbing in two-meter waves gray as slate and as unforgiving. An acid-green blip on the radar screen confirmed the boat's unwelcome existence. A quarter of a mile to the northeast a second blip told her of yet another fool out on some fool's errand.

She fiddled irritably with the radar, as if she could clear the take fog by focusing the screen. Her mind flashed on an old acquaintance, a wide-shouldered fellow named Lou, with whom she had argued the appeal — or lack thereof — of Hemingway. Finally in frustration Lou had delivered the ultimate thrust: "You're a woman. You can't understand Papa Hemingway.

Anna banged open her side window, felt the rain on her cheek, running under the cuff of her jacket sleeve. "We don't understand fishing, either," she shouted into the wind.

The the hull of the Bertram slammed down against the back of a retreating swell. For a moment the bow blocked the windscreen, then dropped away; a false horizon falling sickeningly toward an uncertain finish. In a crashing curtain of water, the boat found the lake once more. Anna swore on impact and thought better of further discourse with the elements. The next pounding might slam her teeth closed on her tongue.

Five weeks before, when she'd been first loosed on Superior with her boating license still crisp and new in her wallet, she'd tried to comfort herself with the engineering specs on the Bertram. It was one of the sturdiest twenty-six-foot vessels made. According to its supporters andthe substantiating literature, the Bertram could withstand just about anything short of an enemy torpedo.

On a more kindly lake Anna might have found solace in that assessment. On Superior's gun-metal waves, the thought of enemy torpedoes seemed the lesser of assorted evils. Torpedoes were prone to human miscalculation. What man could send, woman could dodge. Lake Superior waited. She had plenty of time and lots of fishes to feed.

The Belle Isle plowed through the crest of a three-meter wave and, in the seconds of visibility allowed between the beat of water and wiper blades, Anna saw the running lights of a small vessel ahead and fifty yards to the right.

She braced herself between the dash and the butthigh pilot's bench and picked up the radio mike. "The Low Dollar, the Low Dollar, this is the Belle Isle. Do you read?" Through the garble of static a man's voice replied: "Yeah, yeah. Is that you over there?"

Not for the first time Anna marveled at the number of boaters who survived Superior each summer. There were no piloting requirements. Any man, woman, or child who could get his or her hands on a boat was free to drive it out amid the reefs and shoals, commercial liners and weekend fishing vessels. The Coast Guard's array of warning signs — Diver Down, Shallow Water, Buoy, No Wake — were just so many pretty wayside decorations to half the pilots on the lake. "Go to six-eight." Anna switched her radio from the hailing frequency to the working channel: "Affirmative, it's me over here. I'm going to come alongside on your port side. Repeat: port side. On your left," she threw in for good measure.

"Um . . . ten-four," came the reply.

For the next few minutes Anna put all of her concentration into feeling the boat, the force of the engines, the buck of the wind and the lift of the water. There were people on the island-Holly Bradshaw, who crewed on the dive boat the 3rd Sister, Chief Ranger Lucas Vega, all of the old — timers from Fisherman's Home and Bamums' Island, who held commercial fishing rights from before Isle Royale had become a national park — who could dock a speedboat to a whirlwind at high tide. Anna was not among this elite.

She missed Gideon, her saddle horse in Texas. Even at his most recalcitrant she could always get him in and out of the paddock without risk of humiliation. The Belle Isle took considerably more conning and, she thought grumpily, wasn't nearly as good company.

The Low Dollar hove into sight, riding the slick gray back of a wave. Anna reached out of her side window and shoved a fender down to protect the side of the boat. The stem fender was already out. Leaving Amygdaloid Ranger Station, she'd forgotten to pull it in and it had been banging in the water the whole way.

I'll never be an old salt, Anna told herself. Sighing inwardly, she pushed right throttle, eased back on left, and sidled up behind the smaller boat. Together they sank into a trough.

The Low Dollar wallowed and heaved like a blowsy old woman trying to climb out of a water bed. Her gunwales lay dangerously close to waterline and Anna could see a bucket, a wooden-backed scrub brush, and an empty Heaven Hill bourbon bottle drowning in their own little sea on the flooded deck.

Two men, haggard with fear and the ice-slap of the red through the bilge to grapple at the Belle Isle with bare hands and boat hooks. "Stand and off, you turkeys," Anna muttered under her breath. Shouting, even if she could be heard over the wind, would be a waste of time. These men could no more keep their hands off the Belle Isle than a drowning man could keep his hands off the proverbial straw.

There was a creak of hull against hull as they jerked together, undoing her careful maneuver.

The man at the bow, wind-whipped in an oversized Kmart slicker, dragged out a yellow nylon cord and began lashing the two boats together as if afraid Anna would abandon them.

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Table of Contents

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Customer Reviews

Average Rating 4
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See All Sort by: Showing 1 – 20 of 37 Customer Reviews
  • Posted October 16, 2009

    more from this reviewer

    I Also Recommend:

    Death at the Depths

    National Park Ranger Anna Pigeon has been reassigned to Lake Superior in Michigan. This is quite a change of scenery for her, having spent most of her career in desert settings. Among the shipwrecks in the lake is the Kamloops, a ship that sunk in 1927 with 5 sailors still aboard. Things begin to get interesting when a pair of recreational divers comments that one of the bodies looks so good, it's as if the person died just yesterday. When one of the locals turns up missing, Anna hopes the extra body with the wreck isn't his but unfortunately it is. Now Anna must determine who the killer is and why, not knowing that she could be walking into danger herself.

    A Superior Death by Nevada Barr is the second entry in the popular Anna Pigeon series. This time the action takes place on Lake Superior in Michigan. I believe that part of the success of this series is that Barr periodically implements a change of scenery, which opens up new and fresh plot options. As a Federal employee myself, I can relate to the bureaucracy within which she works. Barr writes in a way that lets us get to know Anna and the assortment of colorful characters she lives and works with. This series is always an enjoyable read and I look forward to catching up on the rest of the series and look forward to hearing more from Anna Pigeon. I can heartily recommend this book to anyone who likes a good mystery without gore or tedious details.

    4 out of 4 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted April 2, 2013

    great read

    Anna Pigeon...gotta love her. I read #17 (the Rope) first. Turns out is was her "back story". Since then I've read ten in order of publication.

    Get to know our national parks!

    2 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted October 10, 2011

    A Superior adventure ...

    I ordered this book but couldn't buy the next in the series because B&N froze my account. It was a small credit card error (exp date) but the Sales Audit group neither answers its phone, picks up its messages (the box is full) nor responds to emails. So this probably is the last book I will have purchased from this company.

    BTW, I love Nevada Barr and plan to read all of her books. Good thing my library carries all of her books in ePub format.

    1 out of 7 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted May 15, 2004

    Nature at it's best.

    Nevada Barr writes about nature so clearly she is a joy to read. For anyone that has visited Isle Royale, or lived in the lakes region of the north, this book is a must read. Fast read, interesting, with lots of twists.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted June 1, 2014

    Fairly gpod

    I have only moderately enjoyed reading Book 2 in the Anna Pigeon series. While the storyline was good, it could have been much better. I got tired of long-winded descriptions that had absolutely nothing to do with the story and felt that there were too many sub-plots going on that just provided distraction from the main plot. It felt busy and forced. Stephanie Clanahan

    0 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted May 6, 2014

    My introduction to Nevada Barr and her Anna Pigeon series was vi

    My introduction to Nevada Barr and her Anna Pigeon series was via audio books, which is an exciting way to enjoy the stories, but I prefer this book format allowing me to easily reread sections to enhance the suspense. The descriptive narrative of nature as well as the "beauty and beast" of man makes for a "heart stopping", don't want it to end series.

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