Tuesday, April 14, 2015

L: Mt. Lassen

True confessions: I wrote this review last year, and used it for my "F" post in the 2014 A to Z Challenge. So sue me! She's still a great writer and the series is worth checking out. As is Mt. Lassen--see photos at end of post!

Title:  Firestorm
Author: Nevada Barr
Publisher: Orig. published Putnam Adult, 307 pages, 1996.
Source:  Public library (ebook)

Ranger Anna Pigeon is on loan from Mesa Verde to fight wildfire near Mt. Lassen in California.  But as the fire camp is closing down, a carry-out operation for an injured firefighter is brought to a shocking end.  The fire suddenly blows up and the group is forced to deploy their last-ditch fire shelters.  When the flames pass, one shelter contains a dead man--with the knife still in his ribs.  Before they can be evacuated, snow closes the approaches to the camp.  It's up to Anna, with some long-distance help from her sort of love interest, Frederick Stanton of the FBI, to find out who killed the man, and why.

The Anna Pigeon novels are one part police procedural (Anna is in law enforcement, for the Park Service), one part exercise for the little grey cells, and one part wild adventure.  In Firestorm, Anna struggles to keep the grey cells working without food or sleep as she is faced with a classic locked-door mystery.  She's locked in the room with the suspects and the corpse, and survival involves food and fire as well as not tipping off the unknown killer.

Barr builds the tension well, and refuses to give us the obvious criminals just as she refuses to give us (or Anna and Frederick) an easy love story.  Anna peels away layer after layer of the dead man's life, until most readers would be happy to join in sticking the knife in the man's ribs.  But only one person has done it, and though in retrospect there are clues, the answer still comes as a shock--just the way it should.  And while we are sure Anna will be glad to see Stanton, we can be pretty sure that they won't ride off into the sunset together.  She has a lot of baggage, and ends this book with still more.

Barr's mysteries are a bit too gritty to be cozy, but they share some important features with cozies.  Notably, the characters are easy to identify with, and the settings are vital.  In fact, this was the first Anna Pigeon novel I read (when it first came out), because it was set in my husband's local park.  The threats to the Parks that Pigeon uncovers lend a special importance to the investigations she undertakes for us.

If you like the National Parks and you like mysteries, and aren't afraid of a bit of gore and some mildly foul language, Nevada Barr and Anna Pigeon are for you.  And this book, though not the first in the series, is as good a place as any to start, and better than some.

Full Disclosure: I borrowed  Firestorm  from my public (digital) library, and received nothing from the writer or publisher in exchange for my honest review.  The opinions expressed are my own and those of no one else.  I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission's 16 CFR, Part 255: "Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising."


Mt. Lassen is the southern-most of the Cascade volcanoes (it is not part of the Sierra Nevada, which is primarily created by uplift, but part of the Cascades, which are volcanic). It is 10,457', and last erupted from 1914-17, making it the second most-recently-active of the Cascade volcanoes (after St. Helens, which erupted in 1980).
And now for the photos. These are from a  3-day backpack we did at Butte and Snag lakes on the east side of the Park in 2011.

Lassen in August in a year with decent snow. This year, I'm pretty sure the mountain has less snow than this right now, in April.
Lassen peering from behind the Cinder Cone responsible for the lava field that separates Butte and Snag lakes.
Yes, this is the background for this blog page! Shot from the top of the Cinder Cone looking down to Snag Lake.

There have been fires in that area, not just in Nevada Barr's fiction but in reality. Afterwards, you get amazing wildflowers.
Last light on the volcano.



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