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Flashback (Anna Pigeon Series #11)

Flashback (Anna Pigeon Series #11)

4.1 24
by Nevada Barr, Joyce Bean (Read by)

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Running from a proposal of marriage from Sheriff Paul Davidson, Anna Pigeon takes a post as a temporary supervisory ranger on remote Garden Key in Dry Tortugas National Park, a small grouping of tiny islands in a natural harbor seventy miles off Key West. This island paradise has secrets it would keep; not just in the present, but in shadows from its gritty past, when


Running from a proposal of marriage from Sheriff Paul Davidson, Anna Pigeon takes a post as a temporary supervisory ranger on remote Garden Key in Dry Tortugas National Park, a small grouping of tiny islands in a natural harbor seventy miles off Key West. This island paradise has secrets it would keep; not just in the present, but in shadows from its gritty past, when it served as a prison for the Lincoln conspirators during and after the Civil War.

Here, on this last lick of the United States, in a giant crumbling fortress, Anna has little company except for the occasional sunburned tourist or unruly shrimper. When her sister, Molly, sends her a packet of letters from a great-great-aunt who lived at the fort with her husband, a career soldier, Anna's fantasy life is filled with visions of this long-ago time.

When a mysterious boat explosion-and the discovery of unidentifiable body parts-keeps her anchored to the present, Anna finds crimes of past and present closing in on her. A tangled web that was woven before she arrived begins to threaten her sanity and her life. Cut off from the mainland by miles of water, poor phone service, and sketchy radio contact, and aided by one law-enforcement ranger, Anna must find answers or weather a storm to rival the hurricanes for which the islands are famous.

Author Biography: Award-winning Nevada Barr is the author of ten previous Anna Pigeon mysteries, including the New York Times bestsellers Hunting Season and Blood Lure.

Editorial Reviews

Ranger Anna Pigeon takes her tour of national parks to the Dry Tortugas, an idyllic preserve seventy miles off the coast of Key West. Even in this island paradise, Anna cannot escape murder. A mysterious boat explosion and the discovery of seemingly unidentifiable body parts catapults our intrepid investigator out of arcadia and into dire crimes both past and present. Like its nine predecessors, this Anna Pigeon mystery abounds in local atmosphere and memorable characters.
The Barnes & Noble Review
Flashback finds Park Ranger Anna Pigeon mingling past mysteries with present dangers in one of the most exotic of America's national parks. To give herself time to sort out her feelings, after an unexpected proposal of marriage from her sheriff/priest boyfriend, Anna takes a short-term post as supervisory ranger on Garden Key, in Dry Tortugas National Park. This remote series of islands in the Florida Keys offers visitors beautiful scenery combined with fascinating history. Garden Key itself is the site of Fort Jefferson, where the conspirators in the Lincoln assassination were held along with Confederate prisoners of war. The crumbling fortress holds special significance for Anna, whose several-times-great-aunt Raffia lived at the fort when her husband was posted there…especially after Anna's sister sends her a packet of letters Raffia wrote there after the Civil War. When not fantasizing about that long-ago time, Anna splits her attention between dealing with work, scuba diving, and wondering what really happened to the previous ranger (rumored to have gone crazy after his girlfriend left him). Then strange things begin to happen. The assistant ranger is lost at sea, a small craft blows up, and the bodies of the crew prove impossible to identify…and Anna, hardheaded, rational Anna, finds herself adrift in visions involving Raffia and one of the men accused of conspiring to kill President Lincoln. As Anna struggles to untangle herself from deadly puzzles, past and present, she uncovers a modern conspiracy that could end in a devastating bloodbath. Sue Stone
Publishers Weekly
When it comes to a vibrant sense of place, Barr has few equals, as deliciously demonstrated in her 11th Anna Pigeon novel (after 2002's Hunting Season), set in little-known Dry Tortugas National Park, 70 miles off Key West in the Gulf of Mexico. Anna takes up her new post on Garden Key, home to Fort Jefferson, a notorious Union prison during the Civil War, after fleeing a marriage proposal from just-divorced Sheriff Paul Davidson. As she goes about her duties, Anna quickly becomes ensnared in one life-threatening situation after another. Anna's fans expect no less; all her postings somehow turn dangerous. Indeed, the contrast between the natural beauty of the landscapes and the human evils within them is a recurring theme. But this one has an added twist: a mystery concerning alleged Lincoln assassination conspirator Dr. Samuel Mudd interweaves with current crimes. In a coincidence best left unscrutinized, Anna's great-great-great-aunt was the wife of the fort's commanding officer, and her letters, relating a story of intrigue and murder, have surfaced. The two stories are told in alternating chapters, and only Barr's skill keeps this familiar device fresh. The pitch-perfect 19th-century phrasing in the letters makes it easy to forgive the occasional over-the-top prose in the modern scenes. But this is a quibble. Those who already admire the doughty National Park ranger will rejoice in this double-layered story with its remarkable setting, passionately rendered; new readers have a treat in store. (Feb. 10) Forecast: Backed by a 20-city author tour, this one will shoot up the bestseller lists. Copyright 2002 Cahners Business Information.
Library Journal
When Anna Pigeon flees a marriage proposal for ranger service on Garden Key in Dry Tortugas National Park, she finds that the past (the island was once a prison) and the present (an exploding boat scatters unidentified body parts) are eerily conjoined. Copyright 2002 Cahners Business Information.
Kirkus Reviews
Seventy miles west of Key West is Dry Tortugas National Park, home to tiny Garden Key, Fort Jefferson, and now Anna Pigeon, in retreat from importunate Episcopal priest/sheriff Paul Davidson (Hunting Season, 2002). The supervising ranger's position is open on an interim basis because the last supervisor, Lanny Wilcox, was placed on medical leave after Theresa Alvarez, his Cuban girlfriend, left him and he flipped out and began seeing things. Anna's been on the island only a few days when she begins to wonder whether she's following in Lanny's footsteps. She's been absorbed in the endless bundle of letters her sister Molly has sent her from their great-great-aunt Raffia Coleman to her sister about the hardships of life on the island in 1865, when Fort Jefferson was pressed into service to house a thousand Confederate prisoners of war. And now Anna could swear she's seen Aunt Raffia herself wandering the grounds. Is somebody playing with her head? Is she going crazy? Or is she stressed out from the discovery of a mysterious burned-out boat and the undersea search for clues about its casualties that almost kills her? Anna won't know till she's made it through Aunt Raffia's interspersed letters, which raise questions of their own about the guilt of Dr. Samuel Mudd, held in Fort Jefferson after setting assassin John Wilkes Booth's broken leg. Fans looking for Barr's trademark pleasures-evocative natural descriptions, mounting suspense, Anna's never-say-die spirit-will have to look hard to find them buried under all those mysteries, villains, and centuries in this most grandly scaled of her 11 adventures.

Product Details

Brilliance Audio
Publication date:
Anna Pigeon Series , #11
Edition description:
Product dimensions:
4.90(w) x 5.50(h) x 0.10(d)

Read an Excerpt


Until she ran out of oxygen, Anna was willing to believe she was taking part in a PBS special. The water was so clear sunlight shone through as if the sea were but mountain air. Cloud shadows, stealthy and faintly magical at four fathoms, moved lazily across patches of sand that showed startlingly white against the dark, ragged coral. Fishes colored so brightly it seemed it must be a trick of the eye or the tail end of an altered state flitted, nibbled, explored and slept. Without moving, Anna could see a school of silver fish, tiny anchovies, synchronized, moving like polished chain mail in a glittering curtain. Four Blue Tangs, so blue her eyes ached with the joy of them, nosed along the edge of a screamingly purple sea fan bigger than a coffee table. A jewfish, six feet long and easily three hundred pounds, his blotchy hide mimicking the sun-dappled rock, pouting lower lip thick as Anna's wrist, lay without moving beneath an overhang of a coral-covered rock less than half his size, his wee fish brain assuring him he was hidden. Countless other fish, big and small, bright and dull, ever more delightful to Anna because she'd not named them and so robbed them of a modicum of their mystery, moved around her on their fishy business.

Air, and with it time, was running out. If she wished to live, she needed to breathe. Her lungs ached with that peculiar sensation of being full to bursting. Familiar desperation licked at the edges of her mind. One more kick, greetings to a spiny lobster (a creature whose body design was only possible in a weightless world), and, with a strong sense of being hounded from paradise, she swam for the surface, drove a foot or more into the air and breathed.

The sky was as blue as the eye-watering fishes and every bit as merciless as the sea. The ocean was calm. Even with her chin barely above the surface she could see for miles. There was remarkably little to soothe the eye between the unrelenting glare of sea and sky. To the north was Garden Key, a scrap of sand no more than thirteen acres in total and, at its highest point, a few meters above sea level. Covering the key, two of its sides spilling out into the water, was the most bizarre duty station at which she had served.

Fort Jefferson, a massive brick fortress, had been built on this last lick of America, the Dry Tortugas, seventy miles off Key West in the Gulf of Mexico. At the time construction started in 1846, it was the cutting edge of national defense. Made of brick and mortar with five bastions jutting out from the corners of a pentagon, it had been built as the first line of defense for the southern states, guarding an immense natural-and invisible-harbor; it was the only place for sixty miles where ships could sit out the hurricanes that menaced the Gulf and the southeastern seaboard or come under the protection of the fort's guns in time of war. Though real, the harbor was invisible because its breakwaters, a great broken ring of coral, were submerged.

Jefferson never fired a single shot in defense of its country. Time and substrata conspired against it. Before the third tier of the fort could be completed, the engineers noticed the weight of the massive structure was causing it to sink and stopped construction. Even unfinished it might have seen honorable-if not glamorous-duty, but the rifled cannon was invented, and the seven-to-fifteen-foot-thick brick-and-mortar walls were designed only to withstand old-style cannons. Under siege by these new weapons of war, the fort would not stand. Though destined for glorious battle, Jefferson sat out the Civil War as a union prison.

Till Anna had been assigned temporary duty at the Dry Tortugas, she'd not even heard of it. Now it was home.

For a moment she merely treaded water, head thrown back to let the sun seek out any epithelial cell it hadn't already destroyed over the last ten years. Just breathing-when the practice had recently been denied-was heaven. Somewhere she'd read that a meager seventeen percent of air pulled in by the lungs was actually used. Idly, she wondered if she could train her body to salvage the other eighty-three percent so she could remain underwater ten minutes at a stretch rather than two. Scuba gave one the time but, with the required gear, not the freedom. Anna preferred free diving. Three times she breathed deep, on the third she held it, upended and kicked again for bliss of the bottom.

Flashing in the sun, she was as colorful as any fish. Her mask and fins were iridescent lime green, her dive skin startling blue. Though the water was a welcoming eighty-eight degrees in late June, that was still eight point six degrees below where she functioned best. For prolonged stays in this captivating netherworld she wore a skin, a lightweight body-hugging suit with a close-fitting hood and matching socks. Not only did it conserve body heat, but it also protected her from the sometimes vicious bite of the coral. Like all divers who weren't vandals, Anna assiduously avoided touching-and so harming-living coral, but when they occasionally did collide, human skin was usually as damaged as the coral.

Again she stayed with and played with the fish until her lungs felt close to bursting. Though it would be hotly debated by a good percentage of Dry Tortugas National Park's visitors, as far as she was concerned the "paradise" part of this subtropical paradise was hidden beneath the waves.

Anna had never understood how people could go to the beach and lie in the sand to relax. The shore was a far harsher environment than the mountains. Air was hot and heavy and clung to the skin. Wind scoured. Sand itched. Salt sucked moisture from flesh. The sun, in the sky and again off the surface of the sea, seared and blinded. For a couple of hours each day it was heaven. After that it began to wear one down as the ocean wears away rock and bone.

Two dive sites, twenty dives-the deepest over forty feet-and Anna finally tired herself out. Legs reduced to jelly from pushing through an alien universe, she couldn't kick hard enough to rise above the surface and pull herself over the gunwale. Glad there were no witnesses, she wriggled and flopped over the transom beside the outboard motor to spill on deck, splattering like a bushel of sardines. Her "Sunday" was over. She'd managed to spend yet one more weekend in Davy Jones's locker. There wasn't really any place else to go.

The Reef Ranger, one of the park's patrol boats, a twenty-five-foot inboard/outboard Boston Whaler, the bridge consisting of a high bench and a Plexiglas windscreen, fired up at a touch. Anna upped anchor, then turned the bow toward the bastinadoed fortress that was to be her home for another eight to twelve weeks. Seen from the level of the surrounding ocean, Fort Jefferson presented a bleak and surreal picture: an overwhelming geometric tonnage floating, apparently unsupported, on the surface of the sea.

Enjoying the feel of a boat beneath her after so many years in landlocked parks, Anna headed for the fort. The mariners' rhyme used to help those new to the water remember which markers to follow when entering heavy traffic areas rattled meaninglessly through her mind: red on right returning. Shrunken by salt and sun, her skin felt two sizes too small for her bones, and even with dark glasses and the sun at her back, it was hard to keep her eyes open against the glare.

The opportunity to serve as interim supervisory ranger for the hundred square miles of park, scarcely one of which was above water, came in May. Word trickled down from the southeastern region that the Dry Tortugas' supervisory ranger had to take a leave of absence for personal reasons and a replacement was needed until he returned or, failing that, a permanent replacement was found.

Dry Tortugas National Park was managed jointly with southern Florida's Everglades National Park. The brass all worked out of Homestead, near Everglades. Marooned as it was, seventy miles into the Gulf, day-to-day operations of the Dry Tortugas were run by a supervisory ranger, who managed one law enforcement ranger, two interpreters and an office administrator. Additional law enforcement had been budgeted and two rangers hired. They were new to the service and, at present, being trained at the Federal Law Enforcement Training Center in Georgia.

"Supervisory Ranger" was a title that bridged a gray area in the NPS hierarchy. For reasons to which Anna was not privy, the head office chose not to upgrade the position to Chief Ranger but left it as a subsidiary position to the Chief Ranger at Everglades. Still, it was a step above Anna's current District Ranger level on the Natchez Trace. To serve as "Acting Supervisory Ranger" was a good career move.

That wasn't entirely why she'd chosen to abandon home and hound for three months to accept the position. Anna was in no hurry to rush out of the field and into a desk job. There'd be time enough for that when her knees gave out or her tolerance for the elements-both natural and criminal-wore thin.

She had taken the Dry Tortugas assignment for personal reasons. When she was in a good frame of mind, she told herself she'd needed to retreat to a less populated and mechanized post to find the solitude and unmarred horizons wherein to renew herself, to seek answers. When cranky or down, she felt it was the craven running away of a yellow-bellied deserter.

Paul Davidson, his divorce finalized, had asked her to marry him.

Two days later, a car, a boat and a plane ride behind her-not to mention two thousand miles of real estate, a goodly chunk of it submerged-she was settling into her quarters at Fort Jefferson.

"Coincidence?" her sister Molly had asked sarcastically. "You be the judge."

—from Flashback by Nevada Barr, Copyright © 2003 Nevada Barr, Published by G.P. Putnam's Sons, a member of the Penguin Group (USA), Inc., All Rights Reserved, Reprinted with Permission from the Publisher.

Meet the Author

Nevada Barr is the award-winning author of thirteen previous Anna Pigeon mysteries, including the New York Times bestsellers Hard Truth and High Country. She lives in New Orleans.

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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Flashback (Anna Pigeon Series #11) 4.1 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 24 reviews.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I have read all of the previous Anna Pigeon book so far and found this one to be the best yet- by far. The novel transions back and forth in time to tell two separate tales, both linked to Fort Jefferson as well as the main character. Anna herself behaves in a much more mature and responsible way in this story and, as a result is both more realistic and more likeable. The plot flowed well and easily held my interest- much more so than in previous books. I am really happy that I stuck with tjis series. It is starting to get really good. Stephanie Clanahan
bjuhlmer More than 1 year ago
Could barely put this down to live my own life. I am from Florida so particularly enjoyed the historical aspect of the book as I learned more about my home state. I found Fort Jefferson on the Internet and viewed every photo to better understand the descriptions of the fort.
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K.Alex Sawyer More than 1 year ago
I have read all of the Anna Pigeon novels - twice. This is my least favorite. It has all of the elements I love about Ms. Barr's novels: beautiful descriptions, action, mystery. It still manages to drag along. I was bored and impatient both times I read it.
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moortina More than 1 year ago
Very intriguing as you travel back to Lincoln's assassination plotters and the current NPS investigation of intrigue. Loved both tales and couldn't wait to get back to one when reading the other. I really enjoyed this novel, as I enjoy both period and current adventure thrillers(especially with these characters, highlighted by Anna Pigeon). Hard to put down and certainly one of a kind in this Nevada Barr series. Strongly recommend!
Guest More than 1 year ago
I like this book very much. Your reading two mysteries in one both combined in the ending. In several places there is strong language used, a few deaths but not described in gory detail. It does allude to a rape but it only says, 'he defiled her.' Thankfully there are no sex scenes. All in all I believe most mystery readers will enjoy it.
Guest More than 1 year ago
After reading this great book, which in a way is two books in one, I declare myself a fan of Nevada Barr. Never have I encountered a novel which so artfully develops characters and mystery both in the present and in the past. The reader is drawn into three love affairs; first with the intrepid hero Anna, then with her dear aunt Raffia and the foolish Tilly, and finally with Jefferson Cay and the Dry Tortugas. Being unable to actually visit the first two, I intend to visit the third at the first opportunity. And, I plan to acquire every Nevada Barr book I can. I am going to place her on a very short list with Earnest Hemingway, Tom Clancy, WEB Griffin, and James Michener. Yes, she is undoubtedly one of my favorite authors. 'Flashback' is a must-red. Like Hemingway, I sense there is a little of Nevada Barr in her character. This is OK with me.
Guest More than 1 year ago
I have read several of the books in the Anna Pigeon series, and this one was not one of my favorites. There were two seperate mysteries, and the one with Anna lacked depth. The historical storyline was okay, bit repetitive in parts, but okay. Describing the fort was hard, just could not get a clear picture of the area despite a map. Was hoping that a story in the Keys of Florida would be more descriptive, the diving, the beaches, the reefs and cool fish ... I like this series, have enjoyed several of the books, this one just did not do it for me.
Guest More than 1 year ago
This was like reading 2 books simultaneously. Both stories would have been great alone, but writing every other chapter about the same story made for difficult reading.
Guest More than 1 year ago
I have read all of the Nevada Barr Anna Pigeon books and must say that this ranks as one of her best. I felt that the last couple of books were rather strained, but here she shows her 'best stuff'. A couple of unique plot twists aide the storyline quite nicely. Her details of the various national parks that come out in her books make for good nature lessons as well as good story settings. I hope that there will be many, many more 'Pigeons' to read.
Guest More than 1 year ago
Versatile voice performer Joyce Bean gives eloquent and exciting reading to the latest from New York Times best selling author Nevada Barr. "Flashback" is the eleventh in Barr's highly popular mystery series featuring Park Ranger Anna Pigeon. With a marriage proposal from Sheriff Paul Davidson still ringing in her ears Anna escapes by signing on as a temporary supervisory ranger on Garden Key in Dry Tortugas National Park. This is the site of Fort Jefferson, a Union prison during the Civil War. Anna's predecessor fell victim to some mind altering experiences in this area and was quickly dispatched to a safe haven. Anna finds equally challenging threats as her life is repeatedly jeopardized. Barr skillfully weaves two stories - the contemporary predicament of Anna and that of a supposed Lincoln assassination plot. Spellbinding listening!
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
They padded in.
harstan More than 1 year ago
Forty eight hours after receiving a proposal from Sheriff Paul Davidson in Natchez, Mississippi, Anna accepts a temporary posting as a temporary Supervisory Ranger in the National Parks Service. Her assignment is for eight to twelve weeks in the Dry Tortugas National Park on Gardenn Key, as far south as one can go and still remain in the United States. On the surface, the place seems like paradise but there is an evil undercurrent running beneath the surface that Anna taps into. Anna¿s predecessor has gone insane and is currently undergoing treatment. His girlfriend Theresa mysteriously vanishes but what really arouses Anna¿s suspicion is the mysterious boat that explodes, killing two people with one of the victims wearing a smuggler¿s tattoo. Anna believes somebody is putting a drug in her bottled water. When she finally figures out what is going on, Anna has to act fast to prevent a massacre from occurring. Nevada Barr intertwines the story of Anna¿s ancestors who lived on Tortugas right after the Civil War with what is happening to the heroine in the present day. Both stories are fascinating and keeps the reader¿s attention until the last page is turned. Anna has been in some very dangerous situations but this is her best adventure to date. It just doesn¿t get any better than FLASHBACK. Harriet Klausner