Many years ago, before we moved south to Somerset we lived in the village of Lees near Oldham. Many people might drive through and not realise it was a separate place from the larger town, but yes, it is a village, and a very old village, dating back nearly eight hundred years. There were (and no doubt still are) lots of great things about Lees and living there, and one of the best was the library. There was always a great selection of books, always new books coming in, friendly helpful librarians, and it was where I first joined a book club!
I found so many books on Lees Library shelves which introduced me to authors I have continued to enjoy ever since – Ian Rankin was publishing his first Rebus novels, Bill Bryson, Robert Harris, Frank McCourt… and in the fiction section I came across a book by the remarkable sounding Nevada Barr. Being attracted by the unusual name, and finding that it was a mystery novel, I borrowed it… and having wolfed it down, borrowed every other book by her that I could.
I know I read these, because they were all published in the 90’s when we were living in Lees:
- 1993 Track of the Cat
- 1994 A Superior Death
- 1995 Ill Wind
- 1996 Firestorm
- 1997 Endangered Species
- 1998 Blind Descent
Nevada Barr was not named after the state of Nevada, although she was born and brought up there – apparently it was a name her father liked from a character in a novel. She was born in 192, and seems to have had a most interesting life as an actress and park ranger among other things before she had books published in the late 1980’s – I don’t know when she started writing, maybe she’s written all her life!
Nevada has written other books, but she is most well-known for her Anna Pigeon mysteries – which are the ones I mention above. I guess I didn’t find the name Pigeon as strange as other people might because we had neighbours, Mr and Mrs Pigeon when we were younger – I don’t remember them except they were elderly and always seemed to have very smokey bonfires in their back garden!
Anna Pigeon is a park ranger, and also a detective; the mysteries are set in various different national parks where Anna works – for example the books above are set in:
- Guadalupe Mountains National Park
- Isle Royale National Park
- Mesa Verde National Park
- Lassen Volcanic National Park
- Cumberland Island National Seashore
- Carlsbad Caverns National Park
I remember enjoying the stories very much but I only ever borrowed the books from the library so I have never reread them. I was at a bit of a loss as to what to read the other night, having bought a couple of disappointing books, and wanting something engaging and puzzling, I looked down various lists of suggestions… when suddenly I remembered Nevada Barr!
I looked her up and found she had written a lot more Anna Pigeon books, in fact nineteen altogether!!! Gosh!!! If I still like her writing then I have a treasure trove! I bought the first book, Track of the Cat, hoping I wouldn’t be disappointed. It’s horrid when you remember a fabulous book from long ago, buy it and then found it’s not nearly as good as you remember!
I started reading it last night… and I’m delighted to report I am utterly gripped – not just by the mystery (dead body at the end of chapter 1) but by the wonderful descriptive writing; I have never been to the Guadalupe Mountains National Park, but I can vividly imagine it now!
Here is a link to Nevada Barr’s page:
By he way, my featured image is not of Nevada or anywhere else in the USA!