I have to admit I am merely a lukewarm fan of Nevada Barr. Her stories of Ranger Anna Pigeon and the national parks where she works seem to have all of the components that I love in popcorn mysteries, but for some reason I often have a hard time getting into her books. In her novel, Flashback, she finally gives me something that sucks me in from the beginning-a dose of historical fiction with my mystery.
Ranger Anna Pigeon has served in some of the most beautiful places in the United States as a park ranger for the National Parks Service. This time she has been sent to a temporary posting at Dry Tortugas National Park, a series of small keys 60 miles east of Key West. She is there to stand in for the regular superintendent of the park, who has mysteriously had some sort of breakdown. Turns out, Anna's great-great Aunt Raffia was once a resident of the fort that comprises most of the public parts of the park. It is through reading her letters that we learn about the fort's most infamous prisoners-Dr. Samuel Mudd and Sam Arnold, two of the men convicted of conspiring to assassinate President Abraham Lincoln. Anna's story and Raffia's story weave together into rather creepy tale of betrayal, divided loyalties, and murder.
The present day mystery involves some very 20th century interests-Cuba, smuggling, and drugs. The historical mystery reads like a gothic romance-a young girl, Anna's great-great Aunt Tilly, is drawn into the efforts of Dr.Mudd to prove his innocence, and her guardian, Raffia, has to try to protect her sister's virginity and her reputation while protecting herself from an abusive husband. Interesting as the Lincoln back-story is, Barr offers only the flimsiest of connections between it and the present day mystery that Anna is trying to solve. That said, both stories, past and present, are well-paced and engaging. If nothing else, the story made me want to visit the Florida Keys, especially the national park. The descriptions of hot sun, warm water, and cool ocean breezes sounds especially tempting when I'm reading watching the snow fall during a cold Chicago December. If you are already an Anna Pigeon fan, I'm sure you'll thoroughly enjoy this book as well. Of course, if you're an Anna Pigeon fan you probably already did-this is not her latest book. I still have three more of Barr's books on my shelf...I guess the fact that they are not buring a hole through my shelf tells you more than anything how average I find this series to be.
(P.S.-for some reason my comments are not working. I'm trying to get someone at blogspot to help me, but so far no luck. If we're Facebook friends feel free to comment there. Sorry!)
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