Friday, January 27, 2012

A Review of "A Superior Death" [10]

A Superior Death by Nevada Barr
Putnam Adult, ISBN 978-0399139161
(March 23, 1994, 303 pages

Anna Pigeon is not really a cold weather person, preferring the dry, hot desert, but I guess National Park service rangers do not always have totally control over where they are assigned. Which is maybe why she finds herself on the decided cold Lake Superior, a ranger in Michigan's Isle Royale National Park, in this, the second in Barr's series. But then that watery, chilly setting is exactly why I picked this one out of the 17 Anna Pigeon books to read. You know what they say...every adventure is better with a boat...and there will be any number of boats this time around, as well as some cold and dangerous scuba diving and a sunken ghost ship, deep at the bottom of Superior.

As one of the ranger assigned to Michigan's Isle Royale park, out on Lake Superior, one of Anna's duties is to give permits to recreational divers who want to check out the sunken wrecks that dot the area,. This includes the one that entails the most dangerous dive, the Kamloops, which still contains the bodies of five crew members, preserved since their deaths in 1927 by the icy old water of the Great Lake. But when the divers show her some pictures they took down there and the pictures show six bodies, it soon looks like murder is the only way to explain that new inhabitant of the ship.

The sixth man turns out to be expert local diver Denny Castle, murdered shortly after his recent wedding and found in the ship, dressed, bizarrely, in the uniform of a 19th century ship's captain.
Who could have wanted him dead? Maybe the twin brother and sister who were his partners on a dive boat and look to now inherit the business. Or maybe his new wife, who never reported him missing and takes the news of her husband's death rather oddly. Or how about Anna's fellow ranger Scotty Butcus, whose own wife has appeared to have gone missing as well. And what of the rumors that she and the dead man, Denny, were involved
Oh, there are any number of odd and quirky characters on the island who might be guilty of something, including one very strange murder.

I have read a number of books in the Anna Pigeon series and picking up one is always like returning to spend some time with an old friend. It's comfortable and you know that you are going to have a good time. While I usually suggest reading a series in order, I have not done that with this series over the years, actually picking a book by what sounds like a interesting setting and this was perhaps my favorite setting of them all. Yes, I like the boats and the chilly summer weather, but perhaps what was best were the parts about the deep and dangerous dives. Very interesting and not a little scary.
And, of course, Anna is a great character, funny and smart and far from perfect, sustained by regular chats with her NYC therapist sister, Molly and a glass or two ...or three or four of wine, something which at this point in the series appears to be a bit of an issue for Anna. But we will forgive her....she is only human. And we like her.

Anna's take on the tourists visiting the parks, her fellow rangers and the running of the parks themselves is always fun and one suspects spot on, since the author was herself a park ranger. I love visiting a different National Park in each book...OK, I think some parks may make more than one appearance ...and seeing them through Anna and Nevada Barr's eyes. Maybe someday I will get a chance to visit them in person, but in the meantime, visiting them with Anna and her friends, with a healthy dose of death and danger, is always a fun time and an entertaining read.

Ms. Barr, if by chance you might read this (ok, it may be unlikely, but I can try) I have only one suggestion for you, maybe for your next book. 
In fact, just three words...Acadia National Park!


  1. Almost embarrassed to say I've never read any of Barr's books. Shame on me! Glad you enjoyed this one so much.

  2. I used to love this series .. sort of lost interest in Anna and the parks .. but the newest book, I've got it set aside, is a prequel to the series explaining how Anna went from being a regular Park Ranger to law enforcement ...

  3. yes, I saw something written about that one. darn, I am going to have to buy it.

  4. This is a series I really want to try.


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