Track of the Cat (Anna Pigeon Series #1)

Track of the Cat (Anna Pigeon Series #1)

3.9 64
by Nevada Barr

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Anna Pigeon takes a job as a park ranger looking for peace in the wilderness-but finds murder instead.


Anna Pigeon takes a job as a park ranger looking for peace in the wilderness-but finds murder instead.

Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
"EXTRAORDINARY...the pages leap to life." -USA Today

"POWERFUL WRITING and deft characterizations...a winning novel." -Faye Kellerman

"THRILLING...Ms. Barr has a naturalist's eye for detail and an environmentalist's fury at the destruction of the wilderness and its creatures." -New York Times Book Review

Tony Hillerman
A real find...Kept me reading far into the night.
Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
The texture, scents and sounds of the West Texas wilderness permeate this forceful debut, in which the murder of a National Park Service ranger illuminates the conflicts between those who want to place our country's open spaces and wildlife under government protection and those who want to profit from them. Anna Pigeon has fled New York City after the accidental death of her husband, and she now works as a law enforcement ranger at Guadaloupe Mountains National Park. There she finds the remains of fellow ranger Sheila Drury, who apparently was clawed to death by a mountain lion. Although an autopsy confirms this judgment, Anna becomes convinced that the claw marks have been faked. Her superiors discourage her from probing further, but another supposedly accidental death goads her into investigating Sheila's activities before her death--her campaign to open up the park to the public and her relationships with a young divorcee and with a powerful rancher opposed to Park Service policies. Anna is sure that clues reside in the thousands of snapshots the dead woman took--photos that show signs of having been rifled through. A park ranger herself, Barr develops a complex, credible and capable heroine who believes in truth and justice while remaining conscious of the ambiguities of human existence. (Mar.)
Library Journal
The title of Barr's mystery debut refers to a cat of a different color. As a park ranger in western Texas, Anna Pigeon stumbles upon the body of another female ranger in an isolated canyon. Suspicious of ``official'' evidence pointing to a cougar as killer, Anna looks instead for a human murderer. Amid the conflicts among seasonal and permanent park employees, ranchers and rangers, cat hunters and conservationists, she finds a motive and imminent danger. Spectacular descriptions, psychological insight, and a refreshingly independent heroine.
School Library Journal
YA-On a biannual trek, park rangers check for signs of mountain lions. While climbing along her assigned route, Anna sees a dozen vultures circle above a canyon. Checking on their carrion, she discovers the body of fellow ranger Sheila Drury, apparently killed by a mountain lion. Believing the animal tracks and scratches are a set-up, the young woman conducts her own investigation, putting her life in peril as she encounters ardent hunters. Anna Pigeon is a great new addition to the cadre of female detectives, especially since her job as park ranger involves hiking through the spectacular scenery of the Guadalupe Mountains of west Texas. Several dollops of ecology and conservation of resources mingle with the murder clues, making this an exciting, almost ``good for you,'' book.-Pam Spencer, Thomas Jefferson Sci-Tech, Fairfax County, VA

Product Details

Penguin Publishing Group
Publication date:
Anna Pigeon Series, #1
Edition description:
Sales rank:
Product dimensions:
6.74(w) x 10.88(h) x 0.73(d)
Age Range:
18 Years

Read an Excerpt

Chapter One

THERE HADN'T BEEN a god for many years. Not the nightgown-clad patriarch of Sunday school coloring books; not the sensitive young man with the inevitable auburn ringlets Anna had stared through in the stained-glass windows at Mass; not the many-armed and many-faceted deities of the Bhagavad Gita that she'd worshipped alongside hashish and Dustin Hoffman in her college days. Even the short but gratifying parade of earth goddesses that had taken her to their ample bosoms in her early thirties had gone, though she remembered them with more kindness than the rest.

God was dead. Let Him rest in peace. Now, finally, the earth was hers with no taint of Heaven.

Anna sat down on a smooth boulder, the top hollowed into a natural seat. The red peeling arms of a Texas madrone held a veil of dusty shade over her eyes. This was the third day of this transect. By evening she would reach civilization: people. A contradiction in terms, she thought even as the words trickled through her mind. Electric lights, television, human companionship, held no allure. But she wanted a bath and she wanted a drink. Mostly she wanted a drink.

And maybe Rogelio. Rogelic, had a smile that made matrons hide the hand with the wedding ring -- A smile women would he for and men would follow into battle. A smile, Anna thought with habitual cynicism, that the practiced hucksters in Juarez flashed at rich gringos down from Minnesota.

Maybe Rogelio. Maybe not. Rogelio took a lot of energy.

A spiny rock crevice lizard peered out at her with one obsidian eye, its gray-and-black mottled spines creating a near-perfect illusion of dead leaves and twigs fallenhaphazardly into a crack in the stone.

"I see you," Anna said as she wriggled out of her pack. It weighed scarcely thirty pounds. She'd eaten and drunk it down from thirty-seven in the past two days. The poetry of it pleased her. It was part of the order of nature: the more one ate the easier life got. Diets struck Anna as one of the sourest notes of a spoiled country.

Letting the pack roll back, she carefully lowered it to the rock surface. She wasn't careful enough. There was an instant of rustling and the lizard vanished. "Don't leave town on my account," she addressed the seemingly empty crevice. "I'm just passing through."

Anna dug a plastic water jug from the side pocket of her backpack and unscrewed the cap. Yellow pulp bobbed to the top. Next time she would not put lemon slices in; the experiment had failed.

After a few days the acid taste grew tiresome. Besides, it gave her a vague feeling of impropriety, as if she were drinking from her finger-bowl.

Smiling inwardly at the thought, Anna drankFinger-bowls, Manhattan, were miles and years away from her now, Molly and AT&T her only remaining connections.

The water was body temperature. Just the way she liked it. Ice-water jarred her fillings, chilled her insides. "If it's cold, it'd better be beer," she would tell the waitress at Lucy's in Carlsbad. Sometimes she'd get warm water, sometimes a cold Tecate. It depended on who was on shift that day. Either way, Anna drank it. In the high desert of West Texas moisture was quickly sucked from the soft flesh of unprotected humans.

No spines, she thought idly. No waxy green skin. Nothing to keep us from drying up and blowing away. She took another pull at the water and amused herself with the image of tumbling ass over teakettle like a great green and gray stickerweed across the plains to the south.

Capping the water she looked down at the reason she had stopped: the neatly laid pile of scat between her feet. It was her best hope yet and she'd been scrambling over rocks and through cactus since dawn. Every spring and fall rangers in the Guadalupe Mountains followed paths through the high country chosen by wildlife biologists. These transects -- carefully selected trails cutting across the park's wilderness-were searched for mountain lion sign. Any that was found was measured, photographed, and recorded so the Resource Manage ment team could keep track of the cougars in the park: where were they? Was the population healthy?

Squatting down, Anna examined her find. The scat was by no means fresh but it was full of hair and the ends twisted promisingly. Whatever had excreted it had been dining on small furry creatures. She took calipers out of the kit that contained all her transect tools: camera, five-by-seven cards with places for time, date, location, and weather

conditions under which the sign was found, data sheet to record the size of the specimen, and type of film used for the photograph.

The center segment of this SUS -- Standard Unit of Sign-was twenty-five millimeters in diameter, almost big enough for an adult cat. Still, it wasn't lion scat. This was Anna's second mountain lion transect in two weeks without so much as one lion sign: no tracks, no scrapes, no scat. Twenty of the beautiful cats had been radio-collared and, in less than three years, all but two had left the park or slipped their collars -- disappeared from the radio scanner's range somehow.

Ranchers around the Guadalupes swore the park was a breeding ground for the "varmints" and that cattle were being slaughtered by the cats, but Anna had never so much as glimpsed a mountain lion in the two years she'd been a Law Enforcement ranger at Guadalupe. And she spent more than half her time wandering the high country, sitting under the ponderosa pines, walking the white limestone trails, lying under the limitless Texas sky. Never had she seen a cougar and, if wishing and waiting...

Track of The Cat. Copyright © by Nevada Barr. Reprinted by permission of HarperCollins Publishers, Inc. All rights reserved. Available now wherever books are sold.

What People are saying about this

Faye Kellerman
Powerful writing and deft characterization...a winning novel.
Tony Hillerman
A real find...kept me reading far into the night.
From the Publisher
"EXTRAORDINARY...the pages leap to life." -USA Today

"POWERFUL WRITING and deft characterizations...a winning novel." -Faye Kellerman

"THRILLING...Ms. Barr has a naturalist's eye for detail and an environmentalist's fury at the destruction of the wilderness and its creatures." -New York Times Book Review

Meet the Author

"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.

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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Track of the Cat (Anna Pigeon Series #1) 3.9 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 64 reviews.
sjh801 More than 1 year ago
Track of the Cat by Nevada Barr was a good, easy book to read. The author was recommened by a friend and I will probably try out a few more of this series. I would have chosen a different one to read but I'm the kind who needs to read a "first" of a series first.
Guest More than 1 year ago
but got a great read in this first book by Nevada Barr. I am now reading the entire Anna Pigeon series. I was surprised, but pleasantly, in the way the author told the story. And good for Barr for helping people see the life of a Park Ranger and her love of the land.
Guest More than 1 year ago
A tail of mystery, suspense, action, and much more. What more could you really ask for? This is my first time reading a book by Nevada Barr and it will not be my last. I haven't had the notion to read much since I got out of high school. But, being laid up with a broken neck I figured I would give it a try. When I started reading this book I couldn't put it down. At first I didn't think I would really be into it, being that a women played the leading role. I guess I was wrong, and I think that's what intrigued me more. I loved all the character, but besides Anna, I would have to say Molly was right up there as one of my top choices. All I can really say is 'I LOVED THIS BOOK.'
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
This was a very good read, I really like the character. If you are not an animal or wilderness lover you will not find this book enjoyable however. While there is a murder mystery a big part of the story is centered around Annas love of the park and all the animals that live there. If you feel differently than her you are apt to find her annoying. That being said, she is a complex, strong willed woman and a joy to read about. The murder mystery was good although I felt the ending was a little rushed. All in all for a first book in a series, which needs a lot of back story on the main character that slows the pace down just a bit, it was really good and definitely worth the read. I am looking forward to reading the next one.
LilyLangtry More than 1 year ago
The descriptive ability of the "spirit of place", the emotions/character of the the individuals involved in the suspense filled stories of [Nevada Barr] have made her one of my favorite authors. Originally, a few years ago I listened to several of her "audio books" becoming an instant fan. Now I am beginning the process of obtaining her complete series on NOOK Books!
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Entertaining, educational, great reading page turner.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Enjoyed the story from beginning to end. Will definitely read more books by her.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
A good rainy day mystery book to read. I enjoyed the place setting and the main character being a park ranger. I will read more of this author for that reason.
Anonymous 6 months ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I would read more from this author.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
The Anna Pidgeon series by Nevada Barr are excellent reads. I could hardly put the books down. This story is no different. Lots of suspense, very description imagery, and a desire to read the next book as soon as you're done. For once a strong woman is the "star" of a series of stories.
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