A Superior Death (Anna Pigeon Series #2)

A Superior Death (Anna Pigeon Series #2)

by Nevada Barr

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Park ranger Anna Pigeon returns, in a mystery that unfolds in and around Lake Superior, in whose chilling depths sunken treasure comes with a deadly price. In her latest mystery, Nevada Barr sends Ranger Pigeon to a new post amid the cold, deserted, and isolated beauty of Isle Royale National Park, a remote island off the coast of Michigan known for fantastic deep-water dives of wrecked sailing vessels. Leaving behind memories of the Texas high desert and the environmental scam she helped uncover, Anna is adjusting to the cool damp of Lake Superior and the spirits and lore of the northern Midwest. But when a routine application for a diving permit reveals a grisly underwater murder, Anna finds herself 260 feet below the forbidding surface of the lake, searching for the connection between a drowned man and an age-old cargo ship. Written with a naturalist's feel for the wilderness and a keen understanding of characters who thrive in extreme conditions, A Superior Death is a passionate, atmospheric page-turner.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781101043554
Publisher: Penguin Publishing Group
Publication date: 09/02/2003
Series: Anna Pigeon Series , #2
Sold by: Penguin Group
Format: NOOK Book
Pages: 320
Sales rank: 24,911
File size: 585 KB
Age Range: 18 Years

About the Author

Formerly an actress and a park ranger, Nevada Barr is now an award-winning and New York Times–bestselling novelist and creator of the Anna Pigeon mysteries, and numerous other books and short stories. She lives in New Orleans with her husband and various pets.


Clinton, Mississippi

Date of Birth:

March 1, 1952

Place of Birth:

Yerington, Nevada


B.A., Cal Poly, San Luis Obispo, 1974; M.A., University of California at Irvine, 1977

Read an Excerpt

Chapter One

These killers of fish, she thought, will do anything.

Through the streaming windscreen Anna could just make out a pale shape bobbing in two-meter waves gray as slate and as unforgiving. An acid-green blip on the radar screen confirmed the boat's unwelcome existence. A quarter of a mile to the northeast a second blip told her of yet another fool out on some fool's errand.

She fiddled irritably with the radar, as if she could clear the take fog by focusing the screen. Her mind flashed on an old acquaintance, a wide-shouldered fellow named Lou, with whom she had argued the appeal — or lack thereof — of Hemingway. Finally in frustration Lou had delivered the ultimate thrust: "You're a woman. You can't understand Papa Hemingway.

Anna banged open her side window, felt the rain on her cheek, running under the cuff of her jacket sleeve. "We don't understand fishing, either," she shouted into the wind.

The the hull of the Bertram slammed down against the back of a retreating swell. For a moment the bow blocked the windscreen, then dropped away; a false horizon falling sickeningly toward an uncertain finish. In a crashing curtain of water, the boat found the lake once more. Anna swore on impact and thought better of further discourse with the elements. The next pounding might slam her teeth closed on her tongue.

Five weeks before, when she'd been first loosed on Superior with her boating license still crisp and new in her wallet, she'd tried to comfort herself with the engineering specs on the Bertram. It was one of the sturdiest twenty-six-foot vessels made. According to its supporters andthe substantiating literature, the Bertram could withstand just about anything short of an enemy torpedo.

On a more kindly lake Anna might have found solace in that assessment. On Superior's gun-metal waves, the thought of enemy torpedoes seemed the lesser of assorted evils. Torpedoes were prone to human miscalculation. What man could send, woman could dodge. Lake Superior waited. She had plenty of time and lots of fishes to feed.

The Belle Isle plowed through the crest of a three-meter wave and, in the seconds of visibility allowed between the beat of water and wiper blades, Anna saw the running lights of a small vessel ahead and fifty yards to the right.

She braced herself between the dash and the butthigh pilot's bench and picked up the radio mike. "The Low Dollar, the Low Dollar, this is the Belle Isle. Do you read?" Through the garble of static a man's voice replied: "Yeah, yeah. Is that you over there?"

Not for the first time Anna marveled at the number of boaters who survived Superior each summer. There were no piloting requirements. Any man, woman, or child who could get his or her hands on a boat was free to drive it out amid the reefs and shoals, commercial liners and weekend fishing vessels. The Coast Guard's array of warning signs — Diver Down, Shallow Water, Buoy, No Wake — were just so many pretty wayside decorations to half the pilots on the lake. "Go to six-eight." Anna switched her radio from the hailing frequency to the working channel: "Affirmative, it's me over here. I'm going to come alongside on your port side. Repeat: port side. On your left," she threw in for good measure.

"Um . . . ten-four," came the reply.

For the next few minutes Anna put all of her concentration into feeling the boat, the force of the engines, the buck of the wind and the lift of the water. There were people on the island-Holly Bradshaw, who crewed on the dive boat the 3rd Sister, Chief Ranger Lucas Vega, all of the old — timers from Fisherman's Home and Bamums' Island, who held commercial fishing rights from before Isle Royale had become a national park — who could dock a speedboat to a whirlwind at high tide. Anna was not among this elite.

She missed Gideon, her saddle horse in Texas. Even at his most recalcitrant she could always get him in and out of the paddock without risk of humiliation. The Belle Isle took considerably more conning and, she thought grumpily, wasn't nearly as good company.

The Low Dollar hove into sight, riding the slick gray back of a wave. Anna reached out of her side window and shoved a fender down to protect the side of the boat. The stem fender was already out. Leaving Amygdaloid Ranger Station, she'd forgotten to pull it in and it had been banging in the water the whole way.

I'll never be an old salt, Anna told herself. Sighing inwardly, she pushed right throttle, eased back on left, and sidled up behind the smaller boat. Together they sank into a trough.

The Low Dollar wallowed and heaved like a blowsy old woman trying to climb out of a water bed. Her gunwales lay dangerously close to waterline and Anna could see a bucket, a wooden-backed scrub brush, and an empty Heaven Hill bourbon bottle drowning in their own little sea on the flooded deck.

Two men, haggard with fear and the ice-slap of the red through the bilge to grapple at the Belle Isle with bare hands and boat hooks. "Stand and off, you turkeys," Anna muttered under her breath. Shouting, even if she could be heard over the wind, would be a waste of time. These men could no more keep their hands off the Belle Isle than a drowning man could keep his hands off the proverbial straw.

There was a creak of hull against hull as they jerked together, undoing her careful maneuver.

The man at the bow, wind-whipped in an oversized Kmart slicker, dragged out a yellow nylon cord and began lashing the two boats together as if afraid Anna would abandon them.

Table of Contents

What People are Saying About This

Thomas Gifford

Anna Pigeon is a fully realized character and we can only hope that we see her again and again.

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A Superior Death 4 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 53 reviews.
trekie70 More than 1 year ago
National Park Ranger Anna Pigeon has been reassigned to Lake Superior in Michigan. This is quite a change of scenery for her, having spent most of her career in desert settings. Among the shipwrecks in the lake is the Kamloops, a ship that sunk in 1927 with 5 sailors still aboard. Things begin to get interesting when a pair of recreational divers comments that one of the bodies looks so good, it's as if the person died just yesterday. When one of the locals turns up missing, Anna hopes the extra body with the wreck isn't his but unfortunately it is. Now Anna must determine who the killer is and why, not knowing that she could be walking into danger herself. A Superior Death by Nevada Barr is the second entry in the popular Anna Pigeon series. This time the action takes place on Lake Superior in Michigan. I believe that part of the success of this series is that Barr periodically implements a change of scenery, which opens up new and fresh plot options. As a Federal employee myself, I can relate to the bureaucracy within which she works. Barr writes in a way that lets us get to know Anna and the assortment of colorful characters she lives and works with. This series is always an enjoyable read and I look forward to catching up on the rest of the series and look forward to hearing more from Anna Pigeon. I can heartily recommend this book to anyone who likes a good mystery without gore or tedious details.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anna Pigeon...gotta love her. I read #17 (the Rope) first. Turns out is was her "back story". Since then I've read ten in order of publication. Get to know our national parks!
LilyLangtry More than 1 year ago
My introduction to Nevada Barr and her Anna Pigeon series was via audio books, which is an exciting way to enjoy the stories, but I prefer this book format allowing me to easily reread sections to enhance the suspense. The descriptive narrative of nature as well as the "beauty and beast" of man makes for a "heart stopping", don't want it to end series.
Guest More than 1 year ago
Nevada Barr writes about nature so clearly she is a joy to read. For anyone that has visited Isle Royale, or lived in the lakes region of the north, this book is a must read. Fast read, interesting, with lots of twists.
Anonymous 11 months ago
Just so-so. Will try another.
susanbevans on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
In Nevada Barr's A Superior Death, National Park Ranger Anna Pidgeon has moved from the punishing heat of West Texas (Track of the Cat,) to the pristine and icy wilderness of Michigan's Isle Royale National Park - ISRO to those in the know. When two scuba-diving tourists discover the body of local diver Denny Castle submerged in the wreck of the Kamloops 195 feet below the surface Lake Superior, Anna must riddle out the mystery of his death - a tragic accident, or vicious murder?After reading A Superior Death, I must declare that I am indeed "hooked" on the world according to Anna Pidgeon! Her character holds all of the strengths, weaknesses, vulnerabilities and awkwardness of a real person, and is incredibly easy to relate to. The other characters in the book are, well.. wacky - most of them have no moral center, but are compelling and interesting nonetheless. I was very happy to see Christina and Allison from the first book in the series. Chris and Ally provide a sense of "home" for Anna that she desperately needs in her life.Aside from it's strong and quirky characters, A Superior Death is also a very easy and quick read with a wonderful plot. The murder/mystery was puzzling right up to the end, making it impossible to put down. The details Nevada Barr provides about the Park and it's wildlife, give the reader true insight into what it means to work for the Park Service. The author's sense of place is astonishingly realistic, putting the reader into the freezing water with Anna. As a bonafide "land-lubber" myself, it was a bit creepy feeling the dark, frigid water crushing down on Anna as she had to dive the Kamloops to help recover Denny's body. I enjoyed A Superior Death more than the first book in the series (Track of the Cat.) As always, I enjoyed Nevada Barr's vivid description of the Park and was entertained by her off-the-wall characters. I can't wait to get the next couple of books from the library (or from my Mom,) so that I can see what Anna gets into next!
sweetwater on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
I enjoyed this one better then her first book,Track of the Cat, but it didn't keep my attention as much as I had hoped.
co_coyote on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Nevada Barr novels are perfect companions for long airline flights. They are easy, they are fun, and they make the time pass quickly. This is another good book in a wonderful series.
mojacobs on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Mystery in the Anna Pigeon series - this one not in the hot deserts of the South, but on the cold shores of Lake Superior. I like Anna Pigeon, greying Park Ranger with a history and a bit of a drinking problem, a lot, and while you can hardly call these books "cozy", I find them very enjoyable.
sumariotter on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
This was my second Nevada Barr mystery and it was even better than the first. Death, deep sea diving, colorful characters, a pensive, intelligent park ranger detective...a new locale for each mystery, natural descriptions of the parks. What more could you want in a mystery? I like that she creates loads of possible suspects. Sure I guessed the right one 1/2 way through but there was still plenty of suspense after that.
caitemaire on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
As one of the ranger assigned to Michigan's Isle Royale park, out on Lake Superior, one of Anna's duties is to give permits to recreational divers who want to check out the sunken wrecks that dot the area,. This includes the one that entails the most dangerous dive, the Kamloops, which still contains the bodies of five crew members, preserved since their deaths in 1927 by the icy old water of the Great Lake. But when the divers show her some pictures they took down there and the pictures show six bodies, it soon looks like murder is the only way to explain that new inhabitant of the ship.The sixth man turns out to be expert local diver Denny Castle, murdered shortly after his recent wedding and found in the ship, dressed, bizarrely, in the uniform of a 19th century ship's captain.Who could have wanted him dead? Maybe the twin brother and sister who were his partners on a dive boat and look to now inherit the business. Or maybe his new wife, who never reported him missing and takes the news of her husband's death rather oddly. Or how about Anna's fellow ranger Scotty Butcus, whose own wife has appeared to have gone missing as well. And what of the rumors that she and the dead man, Denny, were involved. Oh, there are any number of odd and quirky characters on the island who might be guilty of something, including one very strange murder.I have read a number of books in the Anna Pigeon series and picking up one is always like returning to spend some time with an old friend. It's comfortable and you know that you are going to have a good time. Anna is a great character, funny and smart and far from perfect, sustained by regular chats with her NYC therapist sister, Molly and a glass or two ...or three or four of wine, something which at this point in the series appears to be a bit of an issue for Anna. But we will forgive her....she is only human. And we like her.Anna's take on the tourists visiting the parks, her fellow rangers and the running of the parks themselves is always fun and one suspects spot on, since the author was herself a park ranger. I love visiting a different National Park in each book...OK, I think some parks may make more than one appearance ...and seeing them through Anna and Nevada Barr's eyes. Maybe someday I will get a chance to visit them in person, but in the meantime, visiting them with Anna and her friends, with a healthy dose of death and danger, is always a fun time and an entertaining read.Ms. Barr, if by chance you might read this (ok, it may be unlikely, but I can try) I have only one suggestion for you, maybe for your next book. In fact, just three words...Acadia National Park!
gypsysmom on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
This book takes place on Isle Royale which is located in Lake Superior not very far from the Canadian border. I am putting a link to a map of the park because I really wished I had one while I was reading this book. Anna Pigeon is stationed at Amygdaloid Ranger Station for the summer. One of the attractions of Isle Royale is the chance to scuba dive to ship wrecks. A private ship that takes divers to these wrecks often stops at the Amygdaloid docks and Anna has come to know the operators quite well. When two Canadians mention that they have seen a body aboard one of the wrecks it is Anna's duty to check into this. The wreck is a long way down and the water is very cold so it is a hazardous dive. Anna finds that there is a body on the wreck and it belongs to one of operators of the private diving concession. He had just gotten married and he was a very experienced diver so how he got aboard the wreck, dressed in an old sailor's costume and without any diving tanks is a considerable mystery.Soon Anna is checking into this death and other occurrences plus doing her ranger duties. The finish is worthy of an action movie.I always enjoy books from this series, if only to learn more about natural places in the USA. Isle Royale sounds like a fascinating place if you have a boat to get around. Since I don't it is unlikely I will ever be there so I appreciate Nevada Barr shedding a little light on it.
krsball on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
One of my favorite Nevada Barr books. The setting is so spooky and evocative!
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Can't wait to read the next one.
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Superior description. I just dove into story and lost my breath.
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