on 10 June 2009
I was first introduced to Nevada Barr and her Anna Pigeon mysteries when I picked up a copy of the 12th in the series, High Country, on the way home from New York. I enjoyed that so much that I just had to go back to where it all started and play catch up.
Track of the Cat is a fine introduction to a character that I have now grown very fond of and Anna's story now runs through 15 novels.
Anna is a park ranger for the National Park Service (NPS) in the USA and all stories have her based in one of the parks with some mystery to solve at it's heart. However there is always much more to enjoy than the mystery itself. Nevada Barr has a fabulous way of writing and her descriptions of the beautiful landscapes and natural beauty of these parks is just wonderful. She makes it so easy to picture it all. We also get to find out Anna's back story as the novels progress, her strengths and weaknesses, her journey through the NPS and her private life.
Track of The Cat sees her in Guadalupe Mountains in Texas. Part of her work here is to monitor the mountain lion population but when the body of a ranger turns up and the death is blamed on the big cats she sets out to prove them innocent and find the real culprit.
If you fancy a change from gritty crime dramas set in the UK and want something a little different then I can highly recommend the Anna Pigeon stories of Nevada Barr. Nevada herself has a deep love for the outdoors and spent time working as an NPS ranger herself. She clearly does a great deal of research for her books and always gives credit to those who helped her bring the realism to her tales.
A word of warning though....once Anna becomes part of your life you may find yourself hooked and want to know more and more about her. That's no bad thing though, you will enjoy the ride and will have some read some "cracking" mysteries along the way.
Start your journey here. Top stuff!
Anna Pigeon is introduced to us in this novel which sees her in Guadeloupe Mountains, Texas and getting around from her little ranger station by horse to patrol the National Park. Sometimes her horse has sore feet, as they do on such hard ground. She follows mountain lions by radio-collaring them to study how they interact with other species in the park ecosystem. When a human is found dead with big cat tracks nearby, the obvious blame falls where Anna believes it should not. She tries to speak with the ranchers, hunters and other interests in the area to see if she can find out what is really going on. When her own life is threatened however it becomes clear that the deadliest animal in the park is the human.
Anna was widowed young and this has left her with a drink problem, but having no bars in the proximity generally means that she can handle the matter. Her only relative is a sister in New York whom Anna phones regularly, but the sister being a shrink means that she gets more psychoanalysis than she wanted. We never really get to meet this sister so clearly she functions as a device to let us see what Anna has going through her head, since she doesn't have anyone else she can trust to speak with in most of the books.
The early books are full of nature study and heat, excellently written to involve us in the story.