Saturday, December 24, 2011

Pigeon Pie!

by Anna Campbell

Sheesh, I need a new title generator! This one scrapes the bottom of the (bird) barrel!

It's Christmas Eve. What better time to talk about murder and mayhem in the wilderness? Nothing like a bit of blood on the holly!

One of the things I love about social media is that it's a great way to discover new writers you had no idea existed. On one of my Romance Dish reviews this year, lovely Cara Elliott visited to comment and mentioned that she loved Nevada Barr's Anna Pigeon mysteries (hence the rather corny, pun intended, title for this review).

The books sounded interesting so I bought the first one and I've been hooked ever since. I'm eking out the last few of the series right now, having just finished number ten, HUNTING SEASON. I've got eleven and twelve sitting on the Christmas TBR pile and I'm itching to get to them. Then there's five more to go. Don't you love it when you discover a great new author and she's got a backlist up to the wazoo?

Anna Pigeon is a ranger/law enforcement officer in various national parks in the U.S. She's a fascinating character - a middle-aged widow with sharp intelligence and humor and tenacity, and a stubborn courage that stands her in good stead through her various perils. She's also tetchy, opinionated and a little too fond of the vino. She has her own sense of justice which isn't necessarily the justice enshrined in the law.

While the books aren't really romances, it's interesting watching the prickly Anna develop close relationships through each story. When the series starts with TRACK OF THE CAT (1993), Anna's still the walking wounded after losing her beloved husband years earlier to a hit and run accident in New York City.

She seeks refuge in the wilderness and eventually decides to make her career in the national parks. One of the joys of the series is watching Anna come to terms with her devastating grief and establish a rewarding and purposeful life in beautiful, isolated parts of America.

Through the earlier books, there are a couple of abortive romances, the most serious with the man who eventually marries her sister Molly, Frederick the Fed (subsidiary characters are a huge part of the fun). Then in book eight, DEEP SOUTH, Anna falls in love with the charismatic and intriguing sheriff Paul Davidson. It's interesting watching that relationship develop through the succeeding books.

Apart from Anna herself, the principal joy of this series is the exquisite writing about the national parks where Anna works. Nevada Barr knows whereof she speaks. She has worked as a park ranger herself, often in the locations she describes so lovingly in her books.

TRACK OF THE CAT, the first book, is set in the Guadeloupe Mountains in Texas. You can almost taste the dry, fragrant air of the deserts and there are beautiful scenes with the local wildlife, including the magnificent cougars whose poaching forms the basis for the plot.

In A SUPERIOR DEATH, Anna is on a summer placement on Lake Superior. Brrr! That water sounds cold, even in the middle of a hot day! Some extremely creepy and atmospheric descriptions of diving in the lake as Anna sets out to solve a murder in the company of Frederick Stanton (aka Frederick the Fed).

In ILL WIND, Anna takes up a permanent position at the Mesa Verde National Park in Colorado, site of the mysterious and fascinating Anastazi ruins. When murder disturbs old ghosts, Anna begins an investigation that will take her into danger and adventure.

FIRESTORM is one of my favorites in the series. Wildfires devastate the Rockies and Anna finds herself trapped behind the blaze with a small band of firefighters. But not all the deaths can be put down to the natural disaster and she realizes one of the survivors is a murderer. The suspense in this one will keep you up way into the night (sure did with me!).

ENDANGERED SPECIES has a really unusual setting, a place I didn't even know existed. At the height of summer, Anna is seconded to Cumberland Island National Seashore off the coast of Georgia. Wow, what a fascinating place - crumbling holiday mansions of the rich and famous, lush vegetation, lovely beaches and, of course, murder!

I then took a short break from the series (I'd basically gobbled those first five up like chocolate and I became fonder and fonder of Anna with every new story). Nothing to do with the books, more to do with my cave phobia. I had a panic attack once in the Jenolan Caves outside Sydney and the idea of being trapped in the bowels of the earth with a murderer (the premise of BLIND DESCENT) really creeped me out.

Eventually I manned up and read this one. Again, brilliant suspense and Nevada Barr makes you feel every cold, clammy, dark, creepy inch of the unexplored cave that forms part of the Carslbad Caverns system in New Mexico. Still didn't make me want to take up spielunking!

There are seventeen books in the series. I look foward to reading them all (especially if they all take place above ground!). I highly recommend these stories - I find them absolutely addictive.

So have you read the Anna Pigeon mysteries? Who is the most intrepid heroine you can think of? And do you find caves creepy too?

This is my last review for the year. I'd like to take this opportunity to wish you all a very happy Holiday Season and all the best for 2012. Thank you to the wonderful Dishes who invite me to play every month and to everyone who swung by to keep the conversation buzzing along here. Looking forward to talking great books with you again next year! In the meantime, happy reading!


  1. Thank you, Anna, for all the wonderful reviews you have posted to The Dish this year. I look forward to reading your new blogs in the coming year.

    Warmest wishes for a Merry Christmas and a wonderful New Year!

    Season's Hugs,


  2. I love, love, love this series, Anna. I buy each book in hardback and keep it, which is not something I often do. That said, I'm a bit behind, have only read up through No. 10. As I get busier, my to-be-read stacks just grow taller and taller.

    I am a huge fan of U.S. National Parks, so this series was a natural for me. And you're right, Nevada brings them to wonderful, three-dimensional life. My favorites are Firestorm, A Superior Death, and Liberty Falling. I just checked my shelves and realized I haven't gotten No. 16, Burn. No. 17, The Rope, comes out Jan. 17. You've inspired me to pull No. 11 off the shelf and start it. So what if I already have several other books started. :)

  3. Oh, and I meant to say that I met Nevada at a book signing a few years ago, and she was very nice. Had my picture taken with her.

  4. I have NOT read the ANNA PIGEON MYSTERIES. I must.

    Merry Christmas!!

  5. Not yet Anna ;(

    Merry Christmas All Dishes ;)

  6. Hi Flora! Lovely to see you here. I must confess, putting a review up on Christmas Eve, I thought I might have been Robinson Crusoe! ;-) Thanks so much for saying you enjoy the reviews. I love talking about books I've loved with you girls. All the best for Christmas (which is VERY soon in Australia) and a wonderful 2012. Anna xxx

  7. Wow, Trish, so great to meet another fan. I've mentioned these books to a lot of people but they seem to have skipped the denizens of Romancelandia. Beautiful writing! I'm pulling eleven out to read over Christmas. I can't read them when I'm working on something because once I start them, I can't put them down. I think I've got up to 13 on the TBR pile. Need to buy the next lot. She had an interview in a recent RT - fascinating to see how close much of Anna Pigeon's life is to Nevada Barr's.

  8. Wow, you've met her? How cool is that? The funny thing is I'm such a lounge lizard, I'm sure she'd look at me with complete disdain ;-) I could be a sofa ranger!

  9. Mary, I've loved them all (as with any series, though, you always have your particular faves where the ingredients just come together to make a particularly tasty mix). I'm so grateful Cara pointed me in their direction. Happy Christmas to you and thank you for all the wonderful support on my blogs this year. It's always wonderful to see you!

  10. Eli, give them a go. I've really enjoyed them. But they're definitely books I read in one gulp, so don't pick one up when you know you won't be able to read it all and find out what happens ;-) Happy Christmas to you and thank you for all the blog support this year. It's always great to see you too! x

  11. Merry Christmas, Anna! Thank you for bringing great books to our attention every month. We appreciate you and your reviews so very much! xoxo

    As for this series, I'm thinking that my dad might like these. He loves reading Sue Grafton's Kinsey Millhone books. Plus, we are fans of the U.S. National Parks, so I think these books are right up his alley...and maybe my sister's and mine, too! Thanks!

  12. Anna,

    you make me so curious, will try this book, thank you ;)

    i love join this blog ;)

  13. Anna, I haven't heard of this series, but the way you describe the stories are whetting my interest----and I usually don't read this kind of story.

    Thank you for all of your great posts at TRD. I enjoy them, your insights, and your humor.

    P.S. Whew, at least it's not GR pie. Admit it, we'd all be lost without that crazy fowl.

  14. Anna, thank you for all of the wonderful books that you bring to our attention every month. My TBR pile has grown by leaps and bounds thanks to you. *g*

    I have not read this series, but I can see that I'm going to have to change that soon.

    Merry Christmas, Anna, and may 2012 be a happy and healthy one!! xxx

  15. Anna, I always love reading your reviews. Often I share your enthusiasm, and sometimes you introduce me to new authors and characters that I enjoy.

    I read the first couple of Nevada Barrs, but wasn't taken with them. Maybe I should give her another try. I just read #17 in my favorite mystery series, Margaret Maron's Deborah Knott books. Each new book makes me want to reread the full series. This time, since Deborah Knott meets Sigrid Harald, the protagonist in Maron's other series, I want to reread both.

    I look forward to more book talk from you in 2012. May your holiday season be a blessed one.

  16. Merry Chritmas Everyone!

    I have not read any of this series but it sounds interesting.

  17. Andrea, I think your dad will like them - there's not to much mushy stuff in them, LOL! And Anna's a pretty intrepid heroine. Thanks so much for having me here every month. I love the chance to talk about books I really like (and books perhaps people have missed in the rush of new releases every month). And hey, hanging out with the Dishies is COOL! Happy Christmas to you and yours. It's just the start of Christmas Day here in Australia.

  18. Eli, this is a really nice blog, isn't it? They're great people and they talk about really interesting books. Thanks for saying you enjoyed the review!

  19. Ha ha, Deb! I don't know - there are days when I think the rooster could best serve humanity in the stew ;-) Mind you, I've threatened him so often, he just pays no attention to him anymore when I tell him I'm about to order '100 Ways to Cook Chicken' from Amazon! Thanks for saying you enjoy the reviews. I really enjoy being here. Actually this year has been interesting for me read-wise. I've probably read fewer romances than I have in years and I've branched out into mysteries and a lot of nonfiction. Wonder what next year will bring.

  20. Happy Christmas, Gannon! And thank you so much for being such lovely hostesses every month. As you know, I love this chance to talk about favorite books. And I've picked up a lot of recommendations from you guys too. When Cara mentioned the Nevada Barr mysteries, it was actually as a comment on my review of the Daisy Dalrymple mysteries by Carola Dunn (also highly recommended).

  21. Hi Janga! A very merry Christmas to you too. I love your reviews - don't always comment on them but I always read them. Have you recommended the Debra Knott books to me before? They don't ring a bell. Anyway, I just ordered the first one, BOOTLEGGER'S DAUGHTER, from the Book Depository. I'll let you know how I go with them. As I said, I've picked up some of my fave reading from recommendations on the Romance Dish.

  22. Hi Virginia! Happy Christmas to you too! Give the Nevada Barrs a try. I really like them and she's a fascinating heroine.

  23. Happy Christmas, Anna! I hope you're having a beautiful day down there in Oz!

    I always look forward to the 24th of the month because I know I'll be entertained while, more times than not, being introduced to new-to-me authors and books. This month is no exception. You have me wanting to go out and buy the entire Anna Pigeon series!

    I love visiting our U.S. National Parks. It certainly sounds as if the author does them justice in her writing. Cumberland Island National Seashore is a fascinating place with its history and natural beauty. Horses roam free on the island as does other wildlife. You can learn more about it at

    I can also personally vouch that the water of Lake Superior is always cold, even in the middle of summer!

  24. I have not read anything by Nevada Barr, if left to my own devices and without recommendation I don't usually go for the mysteries. That isn't to say I haven't been hooked on any because I have. Hanging out with The Dishes and the Romance Bandits has definitely broadened my horizons, and narrowed my purse but that is okay. I am getting real good at juggling my tbb list.

  25. Anna, great review, but I really did NOT need another series to get hooked on! Yet I see these in my future. *sigh*

    And I see you seconding the motion, Trish. . . .

    This sounds a bit like the In Death series and the way Eve unfurls as a person just a bit more in each book.

  26. I hope everyone here at the Romance Dish has a wonderful holiday and that those of you celebrating Christmas have a merry one!

  27. PJ, do you know the Cumberland National Seashore? That was one of my favorite settings (although good as it was, it wasn't one of my faves of the series). I loved the wildness and the crumbling mansions and the beautiful coastlines she described. Sounded like a fascinating place. And one I had absolutely no idea existed!

    Thanks for the Christmas wishes. Right back atcha. Think we might end up with rain before the day is done but hopefully it will stay fine long enough for all the people who picnic on Christmas Day here. And thanks so much for saying you enjoy the reviews - it's always such fun to be part of the Dishes!

  28. Dianna, I've discovered so many good books through the Dishes and the Bandits - and some of those writers have become my faves which is even better. Glad you've had the same reaction. Actually I've often bought a book that I wouldn't usually buy if the guest is particularly nice or funny or interesting. Goes to show blogging really does sell books! Happy Christmas to you and thank you for all the wonderful blog support during the year! Mwah to you! xxx

  29. Nancy, I think this series is less romance-focused than In Death although the Paul relationship is clearly playing an important part in the more recent of the books I've read (I'm just over halfway through the series). But the writing is wonderful and there's plenty of action and the National Parks are absolutely fascinating. Seriously, it's the next-best thing to visiting one! Now I want someone to offer to drive me all over the States and see these wonderful places. And when I've been close to a park, like the ones in Colorado (although they're set much further south than where I went), I get a wonderful nostalgic experience of revisiting those beautiful environments. I think you'd like these books - yeah, I know, you don't want to buy any more books. But I think like the rest of us, my Bandita friend, you're addicted! ;-) Happy Christmas to you!

  30. I'd like to say a really big thank you to everyone who swung by today. I really thought doing a post on Christmas Eve, I'd be talking to myself. And I've had a really fun chat, like I usually do here! THANK YOU!!! YOU'RE THE BEST!!!!

  31. Anna,
    Merry Christmas. Thank you for your enjoyable posts throughout the year. I look forward to them next year.

    Since we try to visit as many of the National Parks as possible, I couldn't wait to get my hands on this series when I found out about it. I have several of the books, and am looking for the others. I know the library has most if not all of them. I need to start reading them, but the past few years have just been a zoo. I know that as soon as I start this series, I won't want to do much else but read it. Not only will these books give a different view of parks we have already visited, but I'll find more I didn't even know about.

    Have a wonderful Christmas and a great and productive 2012.

  32. Anna, you? Making a corny pun? I'm stunned, just stunned! ;)

    I have the first one of these in my TBR pile, also courtesy of a Cara Elliot recommendation. Might have to pull it out and curl up with it.

    All the best for Christmas, everyone.

  33. Pat, what a wonderful ambition - to visit the national parks! I hope you get to most of them (Trish says there are nearly 400, a bit many for a single lifetime, I suppose, although you'd have a lovely time trying to see all of them!). Thanks for saying you enjoyed the reviews. I've enjoyed doing them. I've got some treats lined up for next year, she said being very mysterious ;-) Happy Christmas to you and yours!

  34. Hi Anne! Merry Christmas! I hope Santa was kind. I thought we might have a rainy Christmas but it's been fine but extremely windy up here. Poured like billio here yesterday. Clearly Cara has been spreading her recommendations around, that recommendation flirt ;-) I think you'll enjoy these books!