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Book Author: Nevada Barr

BOAR ISLAND by Nevada Barr: Book Review

The life of a national park ranger can be a wandering one.  Anna Pigeon has worked in Texas, Michigan, Colorado, and Minnesota, and in Boar Island she’s been assigned to temporary duty at Acadia National Park, 47,000 acres on Mount Desert Island off the coast of Maine.  It’s beautiful, rugged, and an oasis where hiking and boating should be the reason why visitors come there, not because they are fleeing across the country to escape bullying and stalking.

Heath Jarrod, Anna’s closest friend, and her daughter Elizabeth are going through an extremely troubling time.  After much prodding, Elizabeth reveals that she’s the target of cyber bullying, to the point that the teenager has attempted suicide.  Desperate to get away from this, Heath, Elizabeth, and family friend and physician Gwen Littleton decide to join Anna in Acadia, hoping that a move from Colorado to Maine will halt the bullying and stalking.  It doesn’t.

Heath, Elizabeth, and Gwen are staying at the home of one of Gwen’s friends while the friend is off-island.  What they’re not quite prepared for is that the house is a reconfigured lighthouse, set on a rock one hundred feet above the Atlantic.  Not the easiest place to navigate, especially for wheelchair-bound Heath.  But she’s determined to keep Elizabeth safe, and if that means living on a remote island until the cyber bully is caught, so be it.  She and Elizabeth have both dealt with difficult things before.

In Acadia, park ranger Denise Castle is dealing with demons of her own.  She had been in a long-term relationship with another ranger when he abruptly broke it off and shortly thereafter got married.  Now he is a happy husband and father, and Denise can barely stand to be in the same room with Peter and his family.  An abandoned child who grew up in foster homes, Denise has had rejection issues her entire life, and Peter’s abandonment has only made them worse.  But now someone new and totally unexpected has entered her life, and it’s going to change forever.

Anna Pigeon is an amazing heroine, dedicated to both her career and her friends.  She’s definitely a loner, but via her marriage and her friendship with Heath she has become more involved with, and more interested in, other people than she was earlier in her life and career.  She’s still tough and independent, but now there’s a compassionate side to her that wasn’t there in the earlier novels.

Nevada Barr’s sense of place is wonderful, not surprising since she was a park ranger herself for several years.  In addition, her characters have multiple layers to them that go beyond their public personas.  In Boar Island you get to know and understand the inner workings not only of Anna and Heath, but also Denise, a lonely woman who is so overcome by the unexpected appearance of Pauline Duffy in her life that she becomes totally undone.

You can read more about Nevada Barr at this web site.

Check out the complete Marilyn’s Mystery Reads at her web site.



DESTROYER ANGEL by Nevada Barr: Book Review

Off on a camping trip with two of her friends and their daughters, Anna Pigeon is enjoying a well-deserved vacation.  Her friends are at the campsite while she’s enjoying an hour or two of solitude in a canoe on Minnesota’s Fox River when she hears a noise that sounds “off.”  It’s the sound of a pistol being cocked, Anna knows.  As a park ranger, she knows the sounds of guns as well as the sounds of nature, and she’s sure this is the former.  As quietly as possible, she heads the canoe back toward the campsite.

The four people at the campsite are as different as possible, given that they consist of two mothers and two daughters.  Leah Hendricks is the brains behind Hendricks and Hendricks, a sports gear and fashion company.  Her daughter Katie, age thirteen, is an unwilling participant on the trip.  The tension between them is palpable.

Heath and her daughter Elizabeth are the second mother and daughter, and they share a strong and happy relationship.  Heath is in a wheelchair, the result of an accident that broke her back; Elizabeth was adopted by Heath some time ago after a traumatic incident nearly took the girl’s life.  One of the reasons for the trip is for Heath to try out the new wheelchair, a product of Leah’s combined technical and creative abilities.  So far it’s been everything its inventor could have hoped, and the trip, except for the strain between Leah and Katie, could be termed a success. 

Then into the clearing come four men, each carrying a gun.  After making sure who Leah and Katie are, the leader of the men orders the two women and their daughters bound with plastic ties.  Just then Heath hears the faint sound of a canoe on the water, and she realizes that Anna is approaching.  Heath shouts out a warning, ostensibly at the intruders, “Stay away from us!  You hear me?”  But Anna realizes the warning is meant for her, for her to keep out of the camp and try to devise a plan to rescue her friends.

The four men don’t bother to explain the reason they are abducting the women, and the two mothers have no idea why they’ve been targeted.  Could it simply be random, Heath wonders.  But the idea of four heavily armed men coming deep into the wilderness in hopes of finding a group to kidnap seems absurd.  Plus, of course, the men knew Leah’s and Katie’s names.  For some reason the gunmen came looking for them.  But why?

Destroyer Angel is the eighteenth novel in the Anna Pigeon series, each book set in a different park.  Based in part on Nevada Barr’s own experiences as a ranger, the books take Anna from the Guadalupe Mountains National Park in Texas (the first book) to the Iron Range in northern Minnesota in Destroyer Angel

The books, besides being excellent reads, give the reader a look into our national forests and our history.  Ms. Barr’s own background, both as a ranger and a former actress, makes her a natural storyteller.  Anna Pigeon is a character with brains, compassion, and abilities that shine through in every book.

You can read more about Nevada Barr at this web site.

Check out the complete Marilyn’s Mystery Reads at her web site.