Winter Study Paperback – Apr 7 2009
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From Publishers Weekly
In bestseller Barr's chilling 14th mystery thriller to feature National Park Service ranger Anna Pigeon (after 2005's Hard Truth), Anna joins the team of Winter Study, a research project intended to study the wolves and moose of Michigan's Isle Royale National Park, the setting for 1994's A Superior Death. Complicating the study is Bob Menechinn, an untrustworthy Homeland Security officer assigned to shadow the research. Crowded into inhospitable lodgings and persecuted by unrelenting cold, Anna is far from her comfort zone as nature turns awry with a series of bizarre events. The team stumbles upon the tracks—and the mutilated victim—of a preternaturally large, unidentified beast, and local packs of wolves descend on human-populated areas, a behavior out of step with their species. The campfire legends of youth metastasize into adult fears as Anna must piece together a connection between these anomalies while guarding herself from the strangers around her. Barr's visceral descriptions of the winter cold nicely complement the paranoia that follows the appearance of the mythic monsters at play. Author tour. (Apr.)
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved. --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.
About the Author
"Nevada Barr has carved out her own fictional fiefdom, creating a body of work like no other, the San Diego Union Tribune remarked in 1996 upon the publication of the fifth book in Barr's acclaimed series featuring National Park Service Ranger Anna Pigeon. Since the 1993 publication of the first Anna Pigeon novel, Track of the Cat, which was awarded both the Anthony Award for Best First Novel by The Crime Writers Association and the Agatha Award for Best First Novel by Malice Domestic, Barr has earned a reputation as a talented and much admired writer. As the Chicago Tribune said, "Nevada Barr is a park ranger who can write up a storm."
The daughter of two pilots, Barr bears the name of the state in which she was born. She grew up at a little mountain airport in Johnsonville, California. After attending college at Cal Poly San Luis Obispo and completing her graduate studies at the University of California at Irvine, she moved to New York City to pursue a career in theater. She stayed there for five years, as a member of the Classic Stage Company, performing in Off-Broadway shows.
From New York, Barr went to Minneapolis, where she tried her hand at more theater work, landed some spots on television commercials, and worked on industrial films, among other things. Her former husband was involved in the Park Service, which inspired her interest in wildlife and conservation, and eventually led to the profession that until recently she shared with her main character: National Park Service Ranger.
When she felt she could afford to, Barr began to work summers at various parks, and spent her winters pursuing a career in writing. She published her first novel, Bittersweet, in 1984, but it was during her tour of duty in Guadalupe Mountains in Texas, that Barr conceived of the Anna Pigeon character and began the series with her critically acclaimed, award-winning debut, Track of the Cat, in 1993. She then followed up with eight more novels set in various National Parks: A Superior Death (1994) set in Mesa Verde National Park in Colorado; Ill Wind (1995) set in Isle Royal National Park in Michigan; Firestorm (1996), which was awarded France's Prix du Roman d'Adventure and nominated for Anthony Award for Best Novel, set in Lassen Volcanic National Park in California; Endangered Species (1997) set in Georgia's Cumberland Island National Seashore; Blind Descent (1998) set in Carlsbad Caverns National Park in New Mexico; Liberty Falling (1999) set at Liberty and Ellis Islands in New York City, Deep South (2000), set in the Natchez Trace Parkway in Mississippi, Blood Lure (2001) set in the Waterton National Peace Park in Montana and Canada, Hunting Season (2002) set in the Natchez Trace Parkway.See all Product Description
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)
In this novel, Barr takes us back to the scene of the second book in her series, Isle Royale in Lake Superior. Rather than the deep-diving of that adventure, we have frozen treks across the island, a terrain less dramatic, if no less deadly, than the amazing spaces of Yosemite, the setting for High Country. That book was the previous holder of the series' Most-Violent-Action Award, but Winter Study surpasses it with a blend of atavistic terror and human malice that's hard to read. The natural threats are so terrifyingly described and the human perversion is so graphically portrayed that, several times, I had to put the book down and walk away. I just finished it and my neck and shoulders are stiffly painful from the tension.
While that's a visceral tribute to Barr's talent as a writer, I'm not planning to re-read the novel. The wildness of the wolves and the beauty of the island are as vividly described as the terror and the dark deeds, but the latter cast shadows that are too heavy for pleasure reading. If you like the dark side, you may disagree, but I'd advise reading this fast - airplane (or airport) style. It's not a book to savor; it's a book to finish quickly, in the daylight.
Strange things are happening on the isolated island beginning with Anna's first night there. A group of seven wolves walk by the cabin where Anna and the winter study group resides. This anomaly shakes everyone as wolves normally avoid humans. Anna sees a giant wolf almost twice the size of a normal sized wolf and humongous paw prints. They think it is a wolf/dog hybrid and soon afterward an assistant is mauled to death by the wolves, which have no reported history of assaulting humans. The words "help me" appear on an ice coated window. Anna knows something is wrong and begins investigating just before another scientist disappears in what looks like a kidnapping; making her inquiries even more urgent.
A new Anna Pigeon mystery is a treat for fans of the series who expect the best from Nevada Barr and gets it with this strong "closed door" whodunit in a wintry outdoors setting. As Anna digs into the lives of the scientists and their aides, she uncovers dark secrets and blackmail, hidden agendas and ties to a cold (pun intended) case. Readers will enjoy armchair trekking with Anna as she seeks the truth allegedly of a killer wolf stalking humans.
But this book seemed like it was written for a different purpose altogether. I never felt a true sense of Isle Royale National Park. (Superior Death was much better at that.) I never felt a connection with the action or characters - they seemed to be one-dimensional, where usually Nevada Barr has such depth to her characetrs. I even skimmed the middle 170 pages and still got the whole story that she had there.
This could have been a much shorter novel for the story she was telling here. (It could have been the same length if she had gone into better depth of action and character).
The covert agenda wasn't necessary either. When I got to the first part of it, I almost stopped right there. It would have been the first novel of hers I hadn't finished.
I have always waited for each new novel in high anticipation. She needs to go back to what worked. Very disappointing.
On the con side however, there were some errors that were highly annoying. Early on, mention is made of the boatloads of visitors who arrive daily from Grand Marais, MN. Au contraire, the commercial Minnesota boat tours depart from Grand Portage, NOT Grand Marais. In the description of the unfortunate researcher who is brutally savaged and whose ankle is broken, Anna talks about a compound fracture of the femur. The femur is the large thigh bone, not a bone in the ankle. Near the end of the book Anna's shoulder is dislocated, but in the initial description of the event it is mentioned that she felt her ulna pull loose. The ulna is one of the two bones in the lower arm--I'm guessing Ms. Barr meant the humerus, the long bone that runs from shoulder to elbow. These are minor errors, but are more than mere typos. They distract from the novel and can make a reader lose respect for the writer. Doing your research means not making errors of this sort that feel hasty or lacking in smarts.
Also, as a few other reviewers have noted, the story didn't hold together as well as it might've as it drew to an end. I felt a little let down as some of the details (distance of hikes or ski excursions, recovery time from significant physical hardships) were unrealistic and the denouement was a bit of a stretch.
In all, though Winter Study wasn't a "great" novel, this was an enjoyable read and I looked forward each day to the evening when I could pick up the book and get engrossed in the spooky excitement.