Thursday, 8 December 2011

A Superior Death

I'm fitting all my December reading into the beginning part of the month it seems. I was halfway through two books at the start of the month and those I've finished. Midwinter of the Spirit by Phil Rickman, book two of his Merrily Watkins series, was absolutely excellent. My reread of The Magic Apple Tree by Susan Hill was wonderful... I'll probably do a separate post about that if I can find a moment. So, my first complete book of December was A Superior Death by Nevada Barr.

Before I start I should say that this is not the cover of the book I read. My library catalogue only had the one copy and it was large print. I couldn't find that cover on the net so this picture will have to do. I also discovered that Devon library services don't charge for reserving large print books, so that made me feel guilty and a fraud because I wasn't reserving large print because I need it (although...) I just wanted to read the book! And it is a bit odd reading large print books... but actually quite nice as there's no strain involved whatsoever. I could get to like it.

So, this is book two of Nevada Barr's 'Anna Pigeon' series of crime thriller type stories. Anna, a national park ranger, has moved on from the Guadalupe Mountain NP after solving a murder down there. She is now on Lake Superior, on Isle Royale NP to be exact, which is towards the north shore of the lake, quite close to the Canadian border but officially part of Michigan.

The summer season is just beginning for Anna. Two divers who've been diving the old wreck of the merchant ship, Kamloops, talk to Anna about the six bodies that are down there... Anna thinks they're mistaken as there should only be five, but it turns out they're correct. There is an extra floating body down there, dressed in an antique service uniform. She is also approached by two seasonals, young husband and wife, Damien and Tinker, who think one of the other rangers, a difficult, surly individual, has murdered his wife and eaten her to dispose of the body!

The body in the wreck turns out to be that of Denny Castle, one of a trio of divers who do trips for tourists. His partners, twins Hawk and Holly, immediately come under suspicion but others had both motive and opportunity. Denny had just married but was possibly having an affair with the missing ranger's wife. How do all these facts tie in? Very much a novice diver, Anna's investigations take her to the bottom of Lake Superior where she'd really rather not be. And it turns out that it's not just the dangers of cold water, deep diving that threaten her life.

Excellent, excellent, excellent. Yet another edge of your seat read from Nevada Barr. Down in Texas Anna was falling off mountains for excitement. Up here on Lake Superior she's down in the depths of the lake, where it's dark and dangerous and there are issues with how long she can be down there before she'll have problems with the bends when coming up. She also has no idea who she can trust amongst her colleagues and, although she loves the 'loner' outdoors lifestyle, does feel the need for human companionship from time to time. I love the fact that she is very human with plenty of foibles, but also quite a strong character who never gives up on an investigation when others think there's nothing to investigate.

Nevada Barr has chosen yet another unique setting for this second book in her series. I had no idea there was an island in Lake Superior. And a national park at that. This is NASA's view of it:

Isle Royale is to the left of centre, very close to the Canadian border and the province of Ontario. Three American states have a coastline on Lake Superior, Minnesota, Wisconsin and Michigan. I didn't know that either... I would have guessed a couple of them but was surprised that there were three:

Being a map person I have to include a map of all of the Great Lakes:

The only one I've seen is Lake Erie - we stayed at Port Clinton and visited The Bass Islands. Very, very beautiful. Another time we visited the Finger Lakes in New York state and I now realise how close I came to seeing Lake Ontario without realising it. Rats.

I digress... here is Isle Royale from the air:

And so beautiful from the ground too:

I forgot to check where all the photos came from so I must apologise for that. Hopefully they were all from tourist sites and nothing personal.

It seems this new challenge of mine is leading me to all kinds of interesting places. I definitely plan to read more about this corner of the USA - I was bowled over by its beauty and am now wondering about its history. It seems to be all lakes, rivers and forests (how wonderful!) so that has to mean some interesting historical stuff. I certainly hope to find out at some stage.

Back to the books - I can't recommend this series highly enough and this was an excellent read. The next Anna Pigeon book is already on order as the library has no copy of it whatsoever. It's Ill Wind and takes place in the Mesa Verde NP in Colorado. I honestly cannot *wait*.


DesLily said...

sorry I had to chuckle with the "large print vs. not large print".. it's sorta like the woman who goes to get new shoes and when asked what size she wore she said "a 7.... but an 8 feels so fine" lol

so that book qualifies for another part of your reading books in each state?? or don't lakes count? lol

good thing you're my sis and I can torment you lol

Anonymous said...

So glad you are enjoying this series. I am inspired to go back and revisit it in 2012 (my personal challenge of the "year of the series"). Do you know Staci of Life in the Thumb? She lives in the UP of Michigan and could perhaps steer you to some other books in her area of the world. And the next Anna book is set at Mesa Verde. Have you visited that part of the world - the Four Corners area. So beautiful.

I used to feel guilty about reserving the Large Print books too. Not so much anymore. LOL

Val said...

Lovely informative and inviting are making my "like to read next "list grow fast!!!!!

still enjoying "these is .."

I love large print books... as then I don't have to wear my reading glasses..which make me feel rather old at times...I remember my Gramps reading large print perhaps I am old ..ahhhhh STILL perhaps that's not so bad really

Yvonne @ Fiction Books Reviews said...

Hi Cath,

It sounds like you are really getting into this series of books.

I have the author's name on my reading list, but whether I shall ever get around to reading any of the books is another matter.

I have sooo!! many books already in my TBR pile and the author requests for read and review, are coming in at a steady pace, still one can but try!!

I also have the large-print syndrome, when an author send through their book as a PDF file for the computer. I get so used to reading in large print on the screen, that when I switch back to regular pages, the print looks minscule by comparison and I could do with a good magnifying glass LOL

I guess it's just an age thing!

Have a good weekend and thanks for a great review and unpdate on the 'America' challenge.


Cath said...

Oh Pat, you do make me laugh. heehee. Yep, it qualifies for my challenge under 'Michigan'. But am seriously wondering whether or not to have a special 'Great Lakes' page. I sometimes wonder whether my head needs seeing to...

Are we Skyping this afternoon?

Kay: I think I've had a 'year of the series' this year as I've discovered so many new ones to start. Hope yours goes well next year.

No I don't know Staci, but will try to find her blog via yours maybe. I do have one book from the UP of Michigan on my library pile and it's by Steve Hamilton. Another new series I think. LOL.

No I haven't been to or even heard of the 'four corners' area. Assume this includes part of Colorado. I can see I'll be learning even more new things from the next book, which I have on order with Amazon.

Val: Sorry about that. LOL. (Not really...)

It could be that large print books might become my guilty pleasure... (Stop laughing, Pat!)

Yvonne: The problem is that this series is not easy to find in the UK. Our libraries have a few but I've never seen one in a new book shop or a charity shop. And only the first one is available for Kindle. Rather a shame that people don't know about them, imo.

I actually love the print size on my Kindle and can see me using it more and more in future. I now find paperbacks with really small print quite off-putting.

DesLily said...

yes yes, skype! I had closed my computer last evening before your email arrived! that's why I just now anwered it.

my word verification is "birdvan".. birdvan? do birds have vans? hmmmm

LizF said...

I'm very glad that you are enjoying the Anna Pigeon books, Cath and I suspect that you will enjoy Steve Hamilton too especially if it is one of the Alex McKnight books.
When I first read Nevada Barr's books, our library had four different ones and I managed to get a couple via Borders in York but since then the only place I have seen them in a shop was at Boston Airport when we were on our way home from holiday in Cape Cod.
I HAD to buy them of course and went through security with my bag bulging at the seams - good job that regulations didn't insist that the bag be closed because mine wouldn't!

Cath said...

Pat: Great fun chatting to you yesterday afternoon. The miracles of modern science. Me here in England able, not only to talk to you in Florida, but see you at the same time. For *free*. Unbelievable.

LizF: Yes, the Steve Hamilton book I have on my library pile is in the Alex McKnight series. It's A Cold Day in Paradise. I gather it's a good series. Not that I need yet another new one to start.

The 3rd. Anna Pigeon book, Ill Wind, just arrived in the post. I'm having to physically stop myself from starting it as I'm halfway through something else and then have 8 library books to read.

We've been lucky enough to have three trips to the US and every time we've come back with more books than clothes. I remember finding a dedicated crime book store near Baltimore and going nuts. And that was before I even read that much crime. LOL.

Susan said...

I love this series! I'm up to book - 8? 10? Hard Truth, to be followed by Winter Study. Anna is such a cool character, what I like to think I would be like if I were a park ranger. I'm so glad you're enjoying it, Cath! I love the photos of the Great Lakes, too.

Cath said...

Susan: I'm absolutely *loving* the Anna Pigeon books, as you said, she's quite a cool character. I love the fact that she gets herself into all kinds of trouble by not being able to ignore nagging doubts. I have Ill Wind now, book 3, I'm not going to start it until January when *hopefully* things might have settled down a bit. That will be my carrot at the end of the stick. ;-)

Cathy said...

I'm a long-time Anna Pigeon lover and recently finished The Rope, Nevada Barr's latest which will be officially released on January 17. Nevada Barr always begins her book tours here in the Phoenix area, and I had a wonderful time at her last one.

Cath said...

Cathy: How brilliant to have the opportunity to see Nevada Barr on her book tour. I can't imagine such a thing! So looking forward to reading the rest of the Anna Pigeon series this year.