|Winter Study (Anna Pigeon)
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Soon after Anna Pigeon joins the famed wolf study team of Isle Royale National Park, giant wolf prints are found, and she spies the form of a great wolf from a surveillance plane. When a female member of the team is savaged, Anna is convinced they are being stalked, and what was once a beautiful, idyllic refuge becomes a place of unnatural occurrences and danger beyond the ordinary.
- There is no negotiating with thermodynamics
The Anna Pigeon series has a wonderful premise for variety, each book being set in a different national park with its unique landscape and ecology. Pigeon is a Park Services Ranger. In Winter Study (Anna Pigeon), author Nevada Barr takes the reader to Isle Royale National Park in Lake Superior--in winter, when the park is closed and the island is home to the Isle Royale Wolf/Moose Study, which has run continuously since 1958.
Pigeon is a capable and self-reliant main character, professionally nomadic, without a lot of personal relationships through most of the series. She has recently been married and it's not her choice to leave her husband for the frozen winter world of Isle Royale. However, an invitation from the Park Service to spend six weeks with the Winter Study has to be taken as a command.
WINTER STUDY has the feel of a locked-room mystery. Anna shares the bunkhouse with three men from the research team, the hulking Bob from Homeland Security, and two young women. Since this is a mystery/thriller, the reader assumes that strange things will happen, people will die and others will be in danger, and Anna will have no confidante she can trust as she struggles to find answers--and eventually struggles for her life. People behave inconsistently and there are many possible motivations for every bad thing that happens. The wolves could be a major attraction of the story but they are oddly unknowable. The plot has some red-herring elements and too much of the book takes place in Anna's head as she tries to reason her way to the truth. When the bad guy is revealed, he's unrealistically bad and strong, the battle unrealistically protracted. WINTER STUDY is not as tightly-plotted as the earlier books in the series (of which it is number fourteen).
Barr is known for bringing the natural world into her books, with all the challenges of wild terrain and predators both human and animal. WINTER STUDY, however, numbs the reader with the claustrophobic wind-swept cold, and I found the book to be less successful in this aspect as well. Still a good read, an engaging heroine, a fascinating glimpse of nature. Four stars.
Linda Bulger, 2009
- Thoroughly Satisfying
I've read all of Nevada Barr's Anna Pigeon mysteries except Borderline. This is my favorite so far. It is more political, more psychological and more intricate in its plotting. The suspense kept me up until the wee hours. But the thing i enjoyed most was her characterization of the repulsive and quintessentially cowardly male-chauvanist 'big-game hunter' who works for Homeland Security. Barr's psychological insight into this disgusting character is thoroughly satisfying, not least because of the clear but subtle inference that he represents the GW Bush administration. This is a book to be shared with delight among nature- and animal-loving ecofeminists who are not afraid of the 'dark side' and of spine-tingling close calls. Barr's wit, humor, and psychological insight are at the top of their game in this novel. I look forward to reading Borderline, a title that promises even more psychological insight. I like the trajectory that Barr is on....more info
- Disturbing and glamorizes predators
It has taken me a long time to articulate what bothered me so much about this book. Like other reviews, I was annoyed by the relentless cliff hangers and near-death experiences. Come on, real life can't have such uninterrupted suspense going chapter after chapter. But now onto my big beef with this book. The female author has given a predator male sex offender much too much air time. Sure the heroine prevails in the end. But I reject the need to describe in graphic detail his offenses as well as his misogynist (women-hating) language and behavior. As a final complaint, I picked up the book because of family-connections to the Isle Royale area. I picked up very little sense of place from the author. Lest I be really mean, Hardy Boys and Nancy Drew books did a much better job in establishing a sense of place and cliff-hangers with a purpose. I won't be picking up another Barr book - even the one set in the Lake Superior area. Perhaps a more worthy author will highlight this gorgeous part of the world without glamorizing predators and the, sometimes, inhumanity of the human condition....more info
- Pretty disappointing overall (2.5 stars)
This was my first Nevada Barr/Anna Pigeon novel, and I have to say I am pretty disappointed. I really like the idea of setting mystery thrillers/whodunit's in national parks, and weaving into the plot the natural history, culture and environment of the park. It's a pretty cool idea, and apparently Ms. Barr has gathered quite a literary following based on this nifty formula for story-telling. But I have to agree with some of the more negative reviews written here. The plot is widely implausible, the characters are 2-dimensional at best, and Ms. Barr has a tendency to redundancy in describing the characters and their thoughts. Plus, I have to say, she seems to take an excessive (pathological?) amount of pleasure in seeking to maim/injure the clearly insane bad guy in the book. Does this make her a misandrist? A misanthrope? The female equivalent of a misogynist? I don't know, perhaps I'm passing judgment too quickly. The improbable climax just kind of sputters out from the weight of its own overwrought absurdity and violence. And one is really left without much good feeling about ANY of the characters, including Ms. Pigeon. Only the wolves come off looking halfway good in this story. Perhaps that's the point.
I will give Nevada Barr and Anna P. one more chance, as I have picked up Endangered Species... set in an area of the country that is near and dear to me. Hope it proves to be a better read!...more info
- Anna Pigeon has Jumped the Shark
Having loved most of the previous Anna Pigeon mysteries, I found myself bitterly disappointed by this latest offering. Gone were the beautiful descriptions and "insider" looks at a great National Park. Instead we got a violent, claustophobic, unrealistic potboiler. Nevada Barr goes for the easy shock and horror. The characters were completely unsympathetic and badly drawn. Poor Anna Pigeon is so throughly abused in the course of this story that she should have died or been hospitalized several times over--instead she carries on and finally delivers vigilante justice in the most improabable way. It is apparent that Barr hates this character and has run out of ideas. Don't waste your time or money on this book....more info
- great book
This is a great book. The only problem is that I finished it too soon. I wish she could write faster.
- Not my favorite, I'm afraid.
As other reviewers have noted, there are far more disturbing things in this Nevada Barr/Anna Pigeon outing than are typical; frankly, I'm glad I didn't accidentally start the series with it. For example, the autopsies (both human and wolf) are described in enough detail that many may find it off-putting, and the same can be said for the sexual assault. There are also notably more cuss words, if you find that objectionable. I won't give details, for those who cry "spoilers," but some of the things Anna does in this book don't seem true to the Anna we know, and medical details seem less researched too. I was an EMT for 10 years and worked for a medical school for a number of those years, so I know a little something about it, aside from having a nasty tendency toward injuries, much like Anna! ...more info
- I liked her books better without an agenda...
Up to now, I have read Nevada Barr's books practically savoring every word. I have travelled to many National Parks and so I have enjoyed her descriptive settings and the associated mysteries she has placed in the numerous parks. I have usually felt like I was right there in the middle of the action - (gee, I couldn't read and get out of the caves in Blind Descent fast enough, they felt so real!)
But this book seemed like it was written for a different purpose altogether. I never felt a true sense of Isle Royale National Park. (Superior Death was much better at that.) I never felt a connection with the action or characters - they seemed to be one-dimensional, where usually Nevada Barr has such depth to her characetrs. I even skimmed the middle 170 pages and still got the whole story that she had there.
This could have been a much shorter novel for the story she was telling here. (It could have been the same length if she had gone into better depth of action and character).
The covert agenda wasn't necessary either. When I got to the first part of it, I almost stopped right there. It would have been the first novel of hers I hadn't finished.
I have always waited for each new novel in high anticipation. She needs to go back to what worked. Very disappointing.
- Action Packed Adventure
Nevada Barr is back with her signature blend of mystery and nature writing. In this fourteenth book of the Anna Pigeon mystery series, Winter Study takes the park ranger back to Isle Royal in Lake Superior during the coldest part of winter. Here Anna will learn about studying and managing wolves, as they are fast becoming part of her life in her permanent post at Rocky Mountain National Park. What was to be a simple (but cold) few weeks' walk in the park quickly becomes a deadly trap where one starting-to-notice-her-age ranger, two scientists, some agents from Homeland Security, and the National Park's support personnel have no way to get support or to leave the island. In the frozen wilderness, these seven people only have each other to depend on--or be afraid of.
After only a day, the thoughts running through Anna's mind are: "A crazy-making current was running through the island. That a wog had manifested, a windigo died at their feet and a wolf been slaughtered didn't completely account for it. The unreasoning fear of children raised on fairy tales where wolves had an overweaning penchant for evil trickled under saner thoughts....a dozen other wolf researchers had spent decades debunking this myth, but there was no rooting out the ogres of childhood. Fear was the yeast stirred into the mix of human dysfunctions, a catalyst that could spin them out of control. Fear was the difference between neurosis and insanity."
Now, one scientist is dead, and Ranger Pigeon has her closest brush with death so far. She has to investigate before someone else dies. Sometimes only the thought of her new husband waiting back home gives her enough strength to carry on with the investigation.
Barr's descriptive power and love of nature brings the natural world alive with her wide-ranging experience in national parks and her curiosity about the challenges faced by wildlife biologists. All this mixed together with the complexity of her oh-so-human characters makes for a chilling mystery that will keep you absorbed to the end.
by Rhonda Esakov
for Story Circle Book Reviews
reviewing books by, for, and about women
- Tense drama in an isolated setting
Nevada Barr's latest national park mystery is set in Isle Royal, a remote island off the coast of Michigan. Her heroine, Anna Pigeon, has been sent from her assignment at Rocky Mountain National Park to Isle Royal to observe a 50-year-old study on wolves in order to prepare her for managing wolves at her home park in Colorado. Barr does a great job of evoking the cold, barren wilderness of an Isle Royal winter with very few amenities for its inhabitants. As a reader, I felt every windchill and heard every wolf call in the book. Her characters, many of them thoroughly unlikeable, are drawn with a careful eye to detail and believability. Each one is motivated by a powerful force, whether it be personal or professional. Anna herself is roughed up more often than is necessary and the repeated scenes of her narrow escapes begin to lose effectiveness after awhile. Despite this flaw and the darkness mentioned by other reviewers, this book should please Nevada Barr's many fans....more info
i was dissapointed. i looked forward to the new novel for over a year. it was not up to the anna i have grown to know and love. ...more info
- Winter Study Too Long and Long Winded
I love national parks, and Nevada Barr has written some exciting park adventure stories. But Winter Study? While I was reading this one it just seemed to drag. An example of that is its taking over 15 pages for Anna to get off of a slab of broken lake ice. By the 8th of these pages I was hoping she'd drown and let me pick up a faster paced book, maybe War and Peace. When she called President Bush the antichrist, I was offended. He may not have been the best of presidents, but if you know anything about what the antichrist is supposed to be like, Barr is guilty of ignorance on the subject or massive exaggeration. I have become sick of Barr's pointed attacks on God, men, and government in general. I want to read a good mystery, not a lecture against some of my personal beliefs. This may have been my last Nevada Barr book. If she could just write a story without getting so preachy all the time, I would be one of Barr's biggest fans. Finally, I agree with all those comments about Anna getting physically battered time after time and getting back on her feet to the point of the absurd. ...more info
I enjoyed the accuracy of the winter hiking and the effects cold weather has on people. Having camped in minus 15 below temperatures, I found this book to be very detailed. Also the ego factor that comes out when hiking with a group. The good and the bad. I would say that this author had to experience these things herself to write this book. Everybody gets something out of a book, I like this kind of writing! More to a story than the drama....more info
- Nevada Barr delivers again....
A long time addict of Nevada Barr's books, I always worry that the latest one will somehow fall below the very high standards the author has set. Never fear, Winter Study is yet another superb example of the author's craft. A truly enjoyable read. Normal people reaching to do amazing things, spectacular locations, a sense of total groundedness.... I try to live a life of not acquiring possessions that clutter - most of my books get recycled to friends. I never part with a Nevada Barr and this one is no exception. It will be read over and over again like the rest of the collection. If you have not yet sampled Nevada Barr, you are missing a great author. If you HAVE sampled Nevada Barr then I am preaching to the choir :>)...more info
- Nuclear Winter
In this taut, fast-paced thriller, park ranger Anna Pigeon returns to Isle Royale, the same setting as A Superior Death, but this time the season is winter. Anna has come to garner information from the famous wolf/moose population study for use in her home park of Rocky Mountain. In addition to the research team conducting the study, a university professor and his female graduate student have come to evaluate the wolf study on behalf of the federal government.
Anna finds herself as one of seven people, three women and four men, living and working under claustrophobic conditions in a deadly winter environment. As a winter storm cuts off all access to the outside world, Anna becomes aware of tensions within the group that go far beyond the researchers' awareness that Homeland Security wants to shut down the wolf study to keep the park open year round.
In addition, Anna glimpses a monstrous wolf shape in the trees. Huge wolf tracks appear. The much-studied wolf packs of Isle Royale behave strangely. A dead wolf is found with a torn throat and no other injuries, as if it fought and was instantly killed by...something. Anna thinks uncomfortably of the legend of the windigo, a monstrous predator able to drag grown men away to vanish without trace. Maybe it is "only" a large wolf-dog hybrid--but then how did it arrive on this winter-bound island when the ice does not go all the way to the mainland?
Then Katherine, the graduate student, has a falling out with her mentor Bob. Is it because he has sold out and plans to recommend that the wolf study be ended to please Homeland Security? She disappears. A ghostly message "Help Me" appears in ice crystals on the window pane. Her dismembered body is discovered the next day. Apparently, she has been killed by the very wolves she admires and studies. But tough, hard-headed Anna persists in investigating even though it seems no crime has been committed, and even though she knows she can't call for "back up" with the island cut off from civilization.
This spooky story is Nevada Barr writing at her best. With clean, crisp prose, she details the savage beauty of winter and the savage brutality of human nature. The violence here does not make for cozy reading, but Barr has transcended "police procedural" genre because of style, setting and a lyrical layering of tensions that her fictional detective eventually unravels. Brilliant, spooky and best of all, Isle Royale and its wolf study are both real. Outstanding....more info
- Winter Study
Nevada Barr's new book, WINTER STUDY, is a real thriller. True to her reputation, her novels continue to be page turners! I could hardly wait until this book came out but it was worth the wait. I'm adding it to my collection as I own every book she has written....more info
- Winter Study by Nevada Barr
Her Anna Pigeon books are all an enjoyable read. I love our National Parks, so the settings are always pleasurable, even though awful things are happening....more info
- A cold cold book
I have read a number of the Anna Pigeon books. Alas, as the series goes on, I am liking Anna less & less.
"Winter Study" is a very interesting book. The reader learns much about the habits of the wild animals who live in extreme climates. Facts about humans not only living in but surviving very cold weather make the book live up to its title, "Winter STUDY." The best part of the book, to me, is the ability of the author to make the reader actually feel the cold that permeates the whole of the tale.
While I did enjoy reading the book, I became increasingly annoyed at Anna's preaching; she does not like the government, Homeland Security or Catholics. The anti-christ statement was positively offensive. Enough! Anna suffers from bone confusion by breaking then spraining various misnamed bones. (Oh editor - where are you?)
Finally, I found strange word usage, odd sentence and paragraph structure and the use of words such as "Anna'd" very distracting. ...more info
- Excellent mystery for nature lovers.
I love the Anna Pigeon Mystery series by Nevada Barr. It brings to life National Parks and wildlife adventures that I probably will never get to do myself. I find them interesting and enjoyable. Anna is a down to earth character who is no saint but fights for herself, her friends and nature in every adventure....more info
- Already looking forward to the next one.
It seems a shame to wait so long for the next Anna Pigeon novel, only to devour it in a couple of days. I guess I should have forced myself to slow down and savor it as another reviewer suggested. This series brings together two of my favorite things: National Parks and a rocking good mystery/thriller and Winter Study was another strong entry in the series.
I'm already looking forward to the next one, but I do wish Anna didn't get injured to the point of near death in every book. That's my only complaint. OK, one other teeny little complaint: I wish Anna spent more time in some of the many western National Parks, where I have spent some of the most pleasurable times of my life.
Great read! ...more info
- An above-average mystery set in an interesting location
This mystery takes place on Isle Royale, in the middle of Lake Superior, in the middle of winter. This national park is closed from October to April except for the personnel of the "Winter Study." This is the world's longest scientific study and focuses on wolf-moose interactions (predatory-prey systems) over the long term. To my surprise, the retired members of the study appear by name, while two others are "fictionalized" (only weakly so in the case of the one I've met).
Nevada Barr and her fictional persona, Anna Pigeon, both hate to be cold. Not surprisingly, the sense of being cold pervades the book. Even so, Barr treats the cold inconsistently, rushing the characters inside in some situations while letting them stay outside endlessly in other cases. Some characters even perform feats outside while naked or scantily clad, which will doubtless help Barr sell the movie rights.
If you know the island, you'll find little annoyances as you go along. Some could be typos - - saying "west" when she means "east" and sometimes mixing up the names and ranges of wolf packs, for example. Barr has a cavalier attitude toward distance. While one expert skier reasonably covers a lot of ground in the story, several characters *hike* more than 20 miles a day with packs, through snow, in heavy winter clothes. There are also errors of geography, such as switchbacks where there aren't switchbacks and a cliff where there isn't a cliff. I see that other reviewers thought that Barr conveyed both the wildness of the place and the depth of the cold well, so that small, odd minority of us who like winter camping in wildernesses should not complain too much.
What about the story? The structure of the plot will be familiar to anyone who has seen Scooby Doo episodes, with a partial twist in the identity of the villain. The narrative moves along nicely and has the misdirection essential to a mystery though it also has too much telegraphing of the real villain. Once again, our heroine performs extraordinary feats more appropriate to the "Die Hard" movies than to a national park ranger.
For overall plot and characterizations, this book belongs in the "above average" category of the Anna Pigeon novels. Like most of the series, it has a strong sense of place - - though that comes with minor annoyances if you happen to know the place.
- I'm still frozen!
It's been fifteen years since National Park Service law enforcement officer Anna Pigeon was at Isle Royale National Park, and then she had the good sense to work there in the summer. However, she just couldn't pass up the chance to work with the famous "Winter Study"--scientists and researchers who study the wolf and moose populations of northern Michigan as their predecessors have for fifty years. In terms of data and knowledge gained, it's the most valuable study of its kind. Now it's in danger of being shut down due to Homeland Security's concerns about its Canadian border location.
It's a thousand times colder than that proverbial well digger's knee. Anna has so many layers of clothing on she feels like the Michelin woman, and she's still freezing. The staff quarters are less than salubrious, and to make matters worse, the resident Homeland Security bureaucrat is a complete jerk. Then strange things begin to happen. Wolves appear at their living quarters (an unheard of behavior), and they find the mutilated body of a fellow researcher out in the snow--along with the huge tracks of an unidentified beast. What in the world is going on, and with the weather closing in and shutting them off from the outside world...is anyone really safe?
I've been a "friend" of Anna's since her very first appearance in Track of the Cat. For two people who look no more alike than Laurel and Hardy, Anna and I share many psychological similarities. We both detest the cold, we both become depressed when too many overcast days string themselves together, we both prefer solitude and nature to most of the humans we know, we'd rather take a beating than walk into a cave, and it's usually more than we can take to put up with bombastic idiots. With that many quirks in common, you can see why I like her.
Barr worked her magic on me once again. As I turned the pages, I broke out in goosebumps and had to cover up with a blanket. She knows how to describe the cold! Whenever Anna and her cohorts went trekking any distance over the snow, I felt as though I were trudging right along with them, and I desperately wanted eyes in the back of my head because the creature that was killing people seriously creeped me out. I was there with Anna in almost every possible way I could be except physically. I had a vague idea of what was going on, but by the time Anna revealed all, I still hadn't pieced it all together.
For me, Winter Study is another strong entry in one of my favorite mystery series. And one that I will never consider actually reading in the winter. Without doubt, I'd keel over from terminal cold and goosebumps!