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Firestorm: 12/21/13

cover art

Firestorm by Nevada Barr is the fourth of the Anna Pigeon mysteries. This one takes place near the author's childhood home, in the mountains of Lassen Volcanic National Park.

Anna is on loan from Mesa Verde (the site of book three, Ill Wind) to help fight the Jackknife fire. It was started, they believe, by a careless camper. His body (and his dog's body) are found at the point of origin.

Things start going awry and one of Anna's team is injured during a flareup. In trying to save him, Anna and the others are trapped in a freak snow storm. She has do everything she can to both survive and solve not one, but two murders.

Now Lassen's one of the volanic mountains that dots the edge of the inland valley that runs northwards through Oregon and Washington. Even in the middle of summer, it has snow at its peak. The snowy season runs from November to April. The California fire season runs from summer through the first rains or snows of mid autumn. It's in that overlap that this book takes place.

I've mentioned before that Anna's attitude gets on my nerves sometimes. When left with nothing to do, she wallows in self pity (over her husband's death) and self medicates with alcohol. She also seems to attract the worst of men — especially in coworkers she's bound to be stuck in the wilderness with. Here, as Anna is literally stuck in a very small piece of the mountain, trapped both by fire and snow, there is plenty of time for Anna to wallow and for the men she's with to become the JERKs that drive these mysteries.

To further slow things down, this mystery has a second point of view — that of Anna's potential boyfriend, Frederick. He works on the research half of the mystery, while Anna tries to collect the evidence (while staying alive despite the poor weather, injuries, and the fire). This split narrative approach did not work. Had I been reading a print version, I would have skipped the parts with Frederick. Unfortunately I was listening to an audio with very long tracks so skipping wasn't easy.

Three stars

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