Gripped by the High Country

I’m one of those readers who when they find an author they like almost compulsively tries to read everything by them. There is nothing better than coming across a writer and having enjoyed their book find there’s a whole load more by the same person, just waiting to be enjoyed! Sometimes disappointment is in store because the one book you read is the only one you like… However, that’s not the situation with the series I’m reading now, the Anna Pigeon books by Nevada Barr.

In fact I haven’t only just discovered her, I read some of her novels about twenty years ago, but coming back to them now they are even better than I remember, and what’s more, there are far more than I realised she had written! I think I only read three or four, now I am onto number 12, and there are 19 altogether! It’s two years since she wrote the last one, Boar Island, so maybe there is another due out soon!

When I finished and reviewed the previous one, Flashback, I remarked that although I had enjoyed it, I had got a little muddled – there were two narratives, one following park ranger Anna finding out how a speed boat blew up, the other set during the Civil War told through the letters of one of her distant ancestors. I found the geography confusing (probably me) and I just began to feel it wasn’t realistic that a woman like her would continually put herself at such risk.

The thing is with writing, if it is good enough, the most ridiculous situation or improbable characters become so real to the reader that disbelief is not only suspended, it doesn’t even register in the tiniest corner of the reading mind. So in ‘High Country’, Anna’s 12th story, it’s almost impossible to believe that she could be in the situation she’s in – and yet the power of the narrative carries you on, and pages are turned one after the other as fast as your eyes can cover them. Anna is high up in the mountains of Yosemite National park, she has a broken ankle, it’s winter, there’s a mad man and his brutish partner after her, armed with guns, she’s lost all her kit, she’s wearing a bright red sweater which is like a beacon against the snow, it took her five hours to walk to where she is… Impossible!! But not!!! The book is so gripping, the situation is described so vividly, that impossible or not, it doesn’t matter – we are there with Anna trying to escape two murderous, evil thugs!

If you haven’t read any of the Anna Pigeon stories yet, with the wonderful, wonderful descriptions of places you’ll possibly never be able to visit except in your mind’s eye, then you are in for a treat – read Nevada Barr!

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