Reader Participation Day: Do You Read Nevada Barr's National Park-Based Anna Pigeon Mysteries?

Many writers have used national parks as settings for novels, but none have managed to do it more successfully or more durably than Nevada Barr. The books in her Anna Pigeon Mysteries series have consistently made the best seller lists, won prestigious awards, created a large base of fans who eagerly await her next book, and established Barr as the premier writer of national park-focused novels.

If you've read any of the 17 books in the Anna Pigeon Mysteries series, please take a few moments to share your thoughts.

Tell us about anything that's relevant. Which books in the Anna Pigeon Mysteries series have your read? Do you believe that Barr's descriptions of park physical and cultural resources are reasonably accurate? Have you ever visited a park because you read about it in a Nevada Barr novel? Would reading a Nevada Barr novel set in a particular park be a good thing to do before visiting that park? How much do you think the characters inhabiting Barr's novels resemble the real-life rangers, superintendents, concessioners, and others who work in, manage, and protect our national parks?


I have read one: "Hunting Season". Pretty good, held my interest.

Love her books and have read all of them. I especially enjoy her descriptions of the parks themselves and the issues that the rangers have to deal with behind the scenes. Her novels have peaked my interest in several national parks, especially Isle Royale, Natchez Trace and Big Bend (although I haven't been able to get to any of then yet!) I wasn't impressed with her last one "The Rope" - Glen Canyon fascinated me, but the story itself was not great.

I have no idea if her depiction of ranger life is accurate, but I have heard that many rangers don't like the books.

Yes, I have read two books by Nevada Barr. I began reading her novels first for the wildlife association, and second for the setting of the national parks. Blood Lure and Winter Study take place in Glacier and Isle Royale National Parks. Neither are parks that I have visited, however, comparing my own national park experience, I could see the setting and felt as though I were there. Barr’s descriptions are lively and intriguing, even if I cannot verify the physical locations. I have no association with National Park Service except to be a regular visitor of many national parks, but in my regularity (and compared to books to make accounts of park rescues, etc.), Barr accurately make me feel close the parks, like what she writes could be happening. As I travel the country, these parks are places that I would like to visit. I intend to read more of Barr’s novels to relate her stories to parks I have visited such as Big Bend National Park, the setting for Borderline, and I when I visit the parks in the books I have read, I think I will reread them to enhance my experience in the parks. If there is anything catching to me about Barr’s novels, it’s that the animals and nature are not the monsters; it’s humans—us. This insight is gripping as a reader, and humbling as a park visitor. <?xml:namespace prefix = o ns = "urn:schemas-microsoft-com:office:office" />

Great post! Excited to have been able to participate in this, and I look forward to what may follow between NPT and Nevada Barr!

I have read several. I like picking up on local history and culture of the parks depicted, which I believe she does a good job of incorporating in to her stories. I enjoy the books because of their tie to the National Parks....not because of the story lines.

absolutely...great mysteries and gives me a taste of some of the parks I have yet to visit.

I used to read them and I really enjoyed the fact that the characters were based on actual park rangers. I always had fun trying to figure out who they were. But I am a stickler for details and I was driven slightly crazy whenever she called an alligator or a turtle an amphibian. I guess it's just the biologist in me...

I download the audiobooks from my local library. I have a great time listening to Nevada Barr on long drives in the car.

I've read every one and look forward to the places Ms. Barr takes us. I've enjoyed most of them and got a particular kick out of Anna Pigeon's "origin story" in The Rope, which I thought was one of Ms. Barr's best efforts. I also particularly liked Firestorm, probably because of the setting (the Sierra Nevada). Anna Pigeon's adventures definitely pique my interest in particular parks, but many national parks are already on my bucket list because I work for a nonprofit that supports national parks. I believe Ms. Barr's physical and cultural resource descriptions are generally accurate, but I know she takes license because I worked in Yosemite National Park when "High Country" came out, and I didn't agree with everything written. I think superintendents and other characters who populate the series are not necessarily reflecting real life. Since I read the books because I like the Anna Pigeon character and Ms. Barr's sense of humor and irony, I'm not distressed if the parks and the people who manage them are not depicted entirely accurately. These books are, after all, fiction.

I HAD to visit Mesa Verde because of her book. Enjoyed the visit but didn't have much time there.
Our daughter has worked in National Parks for 20 years, so we know quite a lot about them, the living conditions for rangers, etc. I enjoy the books just for the mystery and the characters. I do not critique them.

I devour the Anna Pigeon mysteries. I've even got my husband hooked on them now. I like that they are placed in real national parks and monuments. I always research about the places mentioned in the books.

I'm not distressed if the parks and the people who manage them are not depicted entirely accurately. These books are, after all, fiction.
Good point, Laurel. Readers of Nevada Barr's Ann Pigeon murder mysteries shouldn't forget that these books are not written as visitor guides, and that a certain amount of fact-jiggering can be expected. I credit Ms. Barr with being up front with us about these manipulations -- literally as well as figuratively. Here is what Ms. Barr had to say in her "Confession" just before the prologue to Borderline, her book set in Big Bend National Park:
For purposes of mine own I have done many terrible things. I have moved thousands of tons of rocks from Mexico to America at the rock slide in Santa Elena Canyon. I have rerouted roads and allowed horses to be ridden where they are banned by park regulation. I have changed park protocols and, in some dire cases, rewritten a rule or two. In my defense, I have given the park a shiny new helicopter and updated a few other sundry pieces of machinery. Now that the book is finished, I promise to return Big Bend to the pristine and well-run park that I found it.

I've enjoyed them all, although I found the most recent [although chronologically the first] "Rope" to be a very dark and bleak story that wasn't much fun to read.

I recommend both her stories and Dana Stabenow's stories to folks who want to read fiction about parks. I actually prefer Stabenow's, but still read all of Barr's.

I've read all but the most recent and really love them, both for the parks
and for the stories. I've yet to visit a park after reading the book but
look forward to doing so (e.g., esp. Natchez Trace and Rocky Mountain). I did
find the Carlsbad Caverns volume too claustrophobic for my comfort.

A visitor recommended Barr's books while I was a Park Ranger at Oregon Caves NM so the first one I read was "Blind Descent" where I learned a lot about caving and the NPS. When I was hired to work at Mesa Verde I read the book based from there, sorry can't remember the name now, and again learned a lot specifically about the park. I think Barr does a great job of representing the parks and the rangers.
Visitors often tell me I look like Anna Pigeon. Has there ever been a picture of Anna, I think not.

The book set in Mesa Verde National Park is Ill Wind. A complete list of the Anna Pigeon series books, with related parks indicated, will be found at this site.

Rick B. - If you like Barr and Stabenow you will likely enjoy John Straley.

The one set in Glacier was Not Good. It turned bear management policy on its head (allowing people to continue to camp in the same area of the backcountry- even in the same backcountry campground- where a night-time bear attack had occurred) in order to make the plot "work." There were a number of geographical convolutions that had to be gotten by in order for things to make sense, although I thought of that more like how a movie uses different locations for its purposes that may not make sense to people who really know the area. But the bear management stuff upset me most-- I was so ANGRY at the characters who flouted good bear policy in order for the mystery to work out.
I enjoy the novels for the snarky thoughts about NPS uniforms, seasonal life, etc., which are usually pretty accurate. I don't find the mysteries themselves very intriguing, usually. They're too often direct rip-offs of actual Park incidents. That said, I keep reading!

I enjoyed the first few, but they got a bit gory for me.
I always did wonder why she never set one in Yellowstone, though. Or has she and I just don't know about it?

Yellowstone National Park has not provided the setting for a book in Barr's Anna Pigeon series, Meg. The list at this site has the relevant park information.

Just finished The Rope, and once again I was "roped" in hook, line and sinker! I vascilate between reading the mystery and looking the park up on line and doing all I can to "see" where she is in the park....My dream retirement job is be a raanger at Yellowstone.....a few more years and then, here I come! Also have found Box and Bowen to be great reads. But there is only one Anna for life!