Sunday, July 3, 2011

Review of Nevada Barr's Burn

Anna Pigeon, a ranger for the National Park Service, is in post-Katrina New Orleans visiting a friend and wondering about one of her friend's tenants. Like any law enforcement official she is never truly on vacation and her curiosity finds her in the middle of an organization that caters to the sickest of criminals, the pedophile. Putting both her relationship with her husband and her job with the park service on the line, she plunges into this ugly world of child abusers.

This is the sixteenth book in the Anna Pigeon mystery series. I often have difficultly with the flow of Barr's writing style and find myself rereading a line to make sure I understand it correctly. At other times she can be almost poetic. However, it is the descriptions of the national park surroundings that are the main draw to her books. Her last attempt at writing about an urban park in Liberty Falling was one of my least favorite of her books in this series, but in New Orleans she has learned to stretch her writing abilities to a new level. My husband commented that he thought Burn was her finest mystery book to date.

Once again Anna is in an urban setting and meets an interesting, wounded character, much like she did in Hard Truth with the wheelchair bound mountaineer. Anna continues to make an effort to come out of her hibernating, nature-loving world and become more involved with other humans. Her observations on humanity are presented in the same way she describes any other animal behavior. I often feel that in her eyes humans, more than any other animal, have the most to account for when it comes to how they treat their own.

Some people may be surprised at the dark nature of the crimes in the book. It is not for the young or for those who like cozies. But in spite of the uncomfortable subject matter, I applaud and appreciate Barr's growing abilities to draw more complex characters, to use more dialogue and to be more descriptive in her language. She still leaves us wanting to know more about Anna and what makes her tick and for all these reasons, I recommend Burn. If you have never read her, you may want to go back to the beginning in Track of the Cat and get better acquainted not only with Anna Pigeon, but with the beauties that lie in our national parks.

Copyright 2011 by Linda K. Murdock, the author of Mystery Lover's Puzzle Book, Crosswords with Clues from Your Favorite Mystery Series. Her book is a mini-anthology that includes reviews of 29 award-winning writers, who do mystery series. A check-off list of all the series' titles, along with a puzzle for each series, are included. See a sample crossword and learn more at

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