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TOP 500 REVIEWERon 10 January 2013
A wilderness novel set underground is unusual enough - this one also contains a fine murder mystery. Anna Pigeon, National Park Ranger, is in Lechuguilla Cavern in New Mexico. Ths cavern swallows up entire days and nights as the cavers trek through its halls and tight squeezes to rescue an injured woman. You don't need to have read the earlier books and you don't need caving knowledge. It's a great read bringing to life the intimate setting of a small team of men and women, days away from help and without any outside contact, who discover that one of them may be a killer. When the dark is absolute and goes on forever, your life depends on how many backup lights you bring and how much food you can easily carry. And on your team.
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on 5 May 1998
_Blind Descent_ shows Nevada Barr's protagonist, park ranger Anna Pigeon, continuing to struggle and grow as a character. She's battled with alcoholism in the past and has always had a tendency to come off as a bit cold and unfriendly. In the new book, Anna shows signs of coming out of her shell and warming up a bit.
When a friend of hers is injured in a caving accident in New Mexico's Lechuguilla Cavern, a little-explored network of caverns adjacent to Carlsbad, Anna, already on the scene as an information officer, is persuaded to don caving gear and make her way to the scene. Once there, she is confronted with a semi-delirious friend who suggests that the accident may not have been so accidental, prompting Anna to begin her own informal investigation, which very quickly becomes more serious, following a cave-in and rock slide that injures the rescuers and kills Anna's friend.
The real strength of this novel lies in Barr's vivid descriptions of claustrophobic spaces and underground wonders. Anna is no caver, though she does grow to have a certain appreciation for the subterranean. The writing does a great job of capturing her fear and uncertainty as she first enters the cavern, on her way to comfort her friend. Barr also does a memorable job of describing her growing comfort with the cave during a return visit later in the novel.
Beyond this, the novel effectively shows Anna Pigeon growing and maturing as a character. Anna has always been very complex, some might even say unlikeable. In this book, she comes more into her own, as she overcomes her own fears to enter the cave for the first time, and later, as she pursues her investigation at the risk of her own safety.
It's a great pleasure to sit down with each book in this series, just to see what Barr will come up with next for her character, although the novelty of her national park settings may be wearing off somewhat. Toward the end, Anna even seems to be reconsidering her dedication to her park ranger's job.
The on! ly frustration is having to wait for the next book to see what will happen! Very strongly recommended--if you have the chance, this is definitely a series to be read in order.
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on 8 September 1998
This is my first Nevada Barr novel. The reason I wanted to read this book is that I am a caver and like to read books written with caves and caving as a setting. These kinds of books written for the popular press are few and far between.
Although highly accurate in its physical description of caving and cavers, (I even recognized some people I know!) what was new to me, and what seemed a negative was the paranoia protrayed about caving in general. It's not that dangerous--it's not that mysterious. People are not all that fearul of caving. If they are, they don't go. What is overriding in the sport of caving is the camaraderie and fun one has doing it. This paranoia made the story seem somewhat unrealistic to me. A reader who has never been in a cave or gone caving might get the wrong idea about the sport from this book. Whose whole purpose is to entertain with frightening vignettes.
The last three chapters are the best in the same vein as "Shibumi" by Trevanian--the greatest cave adventure story ever written. In these three chapters, the heroine, Anna Pigeon, goes through great feats of physical prowess to escape danger. Great to see a woman protrayed as a heroine! Nail biting fare. Some of the characters were flat. Even though we learn something about Anna Pigeon, I felt she could have been more real, however, I would recommed this book to cavers for sure and to mystery fans as well.
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on 14 January 1998
Forest ranger Anna Pigeon hates dark enclosed places. So when a caver is trapped inside Carlsbad Caverns, Anna is elated when she only has to serve as a liaison with the press and not enter the cavern. However, Anna is unable sit snugly in her office when the victim turns out to be her friend Frieda Diertz, who asks specifically for her help. Unable to say no, Anna joins the rescue team.
After an 8-hour journey into the bowels of hell, Anna reaches her friend's location. Frieda is barely lucid, but manages to express that this was no accident. On the way out, a cave-in occurs, leading to Frieda's death. Though park officials refuse to believe Anna's contention that a murder is loose, she decides to prove that she is not a hysterical, grieving person. Instead she vows to avenge the death of her friend and a subsequent second murder victim.
Readers will feel, see, smell, and touch every step that Nevada Barr makes in her underground trek as if they are part of the rescue party. The lyrical writing that makes up BLIND DESCENT turns the brilliant mystery into a lyrical work of art that will endure time. The heroine is a flawed person, who never gives into her phobias when it counts. This novel should be a New York Times bestseller.
Harriet Klausner
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on 5 July 1998
"Blind Descent" is an excellent read, the best by far by Nevada Barr. Anna Pigeon's character is an extremely interesting person who has human frailties like everyone else yet has the skills and finds the inner strength to persevere and meet the challenges and succeed. Barr's writing skills and style are superb in this book, especially in describing Anna Pigeon's thoughts as she is dealing with her reactions to being in the cave. Also, some of her insights into human relations hit the mark and her sense of humor is well intact. Enjoyed this book from beginning to end and cannot wait for more in the series. Nevada Barr deserves to be congratulated for her writing skills and creating such an enjoyable read and such an interesting main character. The readers cannot wait to see what happens to Anna Pigeon next.
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on 20 June 1998
I love Nevada Barr and her character, Anna Pigeon! This is not my favorite in the Pigeon series, but it is very good. As usual, Barr equals Tony Hillerman in her description of place and betters him in her creation of character. With every novel, Anna keeps getting more interesting and more real. Note to Barr: please consider Acadia National Park as a setting for a future Anna Pigeon tale! In fact, a real murder that occurred here a few years ago could provide just the inspiration: a man pushed his new bride off the spectacular Otter Cliffs. The investigation revealed a rather shady and tangled past, including a first wife who mysteriously drowned at another wilderness park.
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on 22 May 1998
The very idea of being so far underground is so suspenseful that Barr would not have had to have a crime in this book, but since she did it is probably one of the best on the edge of your chair novels written. Anna Pigeon is the female Dirk Pitt (Clive Cussler's character) only a shade more realistic. Anna has the kind of personality and life style that one would like to have for one's own, if I were able to hike tall mountains in a single bound, dive deep seas, live through flash fires under a blanket, run through caves in total darkness, etc. Read this book and be prepared to shut one eye during the scary parts and sit on the edge of your chair through the rest.
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on 18 May 2013
I started reading Blind Descent on holiday in France - it must have been left behind by a US tourist as I've never seen the series in the UK. I was bowled over by Anna herself, who is a great character, and by the tension created by skilful use of one of the best settings for a book ever. I'm afraid I took the book home with me (leaving one of mine in its place, of course) and then set about tracking down the rest of the series on amazon.com. Some of the books are better than the others, but they're all entertaining reads. I'm thrilled they are all now on Kindle and I shall start on a reread in order, what a treat!
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on 4 May 2016
my first and one of my favorite Anna Pigeon mysteries. I have read it 4 times just because I love the caving! Actively caved myself from 1990-1997 and served as treasurer for a western grotto (caving club) and found the descriptions wonderful and appropriate. The thrill and danger of caving differs from person to person due to perspective and natural fears, or lack thereof. Having been stuck in a cave before, I could easily relate to those sequences, and although some might find the environmental concerns somewhat trite, they were a natural part of a well told story. job well done Anna!
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on 27 August 1998
Like Clancey, the author has redruged past characters, and settings into a similar plot. I still enjoyed it, much better than Clancy's new 700 page tomb. But enough is enough. We want new plots, characters, and inventive mysteries. If you like this author, I suggest you buy Hillerman's new book, or even Brad Steiger's new book, Alien Rapture, both explosive and the page turning leaves you light headed. I would recommend this book, but hope more from the author on the next one.
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