Cover image for Flashback
Title:
Flashback
Author:
Barr, Nevada.
Personal Author:
Publication Information:
New York : G.P. Putnam's Sons, [2003]

©2003
Physical Description:
387 pages ; 24 cm
Language:
English
ISBN:
9780399149757
Format :
Book

Available:*

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X Adult Fiction Central Closed Stacks
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X Adult Fiction Mystery/Suspense
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Summary

Summary

Running from a proposal of marriage from Sheriff Paul Davidson, Anna Pigeon takes a post as a temporary supervisory ranger on remote Garden Key in Dry Tortugas National Park, a small grouping of tiny islands in a natural harbor seventy miles off Key West. This island paradise has secrets it would keep; not just in the present, but in shadows from its gritty past, when it served as a prison for the Lincoln conspirators during and after the Civil War. Here, on this last lick of the United States, in a giant crumbling fortress, Anna has little company except for the occasional sunburned tourist or unruly shrimper. When her sister, Molly, sends her a packet of letters from a great-great-aunt who lived at the fort with her husband, a career soldier, Anna's fantasy life is filled with visions of this long-ago time. When a mysterious boat explosion-and the discovery of unidentifiable body parts-keeps her anchored to the present, Anna finds crimes of past and present closing in on her. A tangled web that was woven before she arrived begins to threaten her sanity and her life. Cut off from the mainland by miles of water, poor phone service, and sketchy radio contact, and aided by one law-enforcement ranger, Anna must find answers or weather a storm to rival the hurricanes for which the islands are famous.


Author Notes

Nevada Barr was born on March 1, 1952. She is the author of a series of mysteries involving national parks. She draws on her own experience as a National Park Service ranger to thrill readers with the majesty of nature. Anna Pigeon, the heroine of such novels as A Superior Death and Endangered Species, is a rough-and-tough ranger who left the wilds of New York for the great outdoors, and is modeled after Barr.

Barr began writing in 1978, garnering national attention with the publication in 1993 of Track of the Cat, which won both the Agatha and Anthony awards for Best First Mystery Novel. Her novels are known for breathtaking descriptions of nature, diverse settings, and a no-nonsense heroine. She also provides frequently unflattering portrayals of the National Park Service.

Her works include 13 1/2, Winterstudy, Borderline, Burn, The Rope and Destroyer Angel.

(Bowker Author Biography)


Reviews 3

Booklist Review

The curmudgeonly, charming forest ranger Anna Pigeon returns in another engaging tale of life in a national park. This time, Anna seeks refuge from her life (needing to "renew herself" while she considers whether to accept the marriage proposal of Paul Davidson, a sheriff in her Mississippi town) by taking on a temporary post as supervisory ranger at Fort Jefferson, a rundown station on an island 70 miles out of Key West. Fearing Anna's peculiar occupation and current isolated location will do her in, Anna's sister Molly sends a box of old family memorabilia. Included in the box are piles of letters written by their great-great-aunt, who coincidentally had been living at Fort Jefferson during the Civil War. The letters are at once fascinating and chilling, a glimpse into the hard life of the times. Anna has her own drama to deal with, though, as the sleepy fort bustles to life when a boat explodes in nearby waters. As Anna investigates the explosion, she begins to unravel an eerie connection between the current turmoil and past troubles documented in the letters. Barr's technique of flashing between the past and present in intervening chapters works magically, weaving the two together into an exciting climax. After many years of being landlocked, it's nice to see Anna back on the water (Endangered Species, 1997). Whether on land or sea, few writers spin a more exhilarating web than Barr. --Mary Frances Wilkens


Publisher's Weekly Review

When it comes to a vibrant sense of place, Barr has few equals, as deliciously demonstrated in her 11th Anna Pigeon novel (after 2002's Hunting Season), set in little-known Dry Tortugas National Park, 70 miles off Key West in the Gulf of Mexico. Anna takes up her new post on Garden Key, home to Fort Jefferson, a notorious Union prison during the Civil War, after fleeing a marriage proposal from just-divorced Sheriff Paul Davidson. As she goes about her duties, Anna quickly becomes ensnared in one life-threatening situation after another. Anna's fans expect no less; all her postings somehow turn dangerous. Indeed, the contrast between the natural beauty of the landscapes and the human evils within them is a recurring theme. But this one has an added twist: a mystery concerning alleged Lincoln assassination conspirator Dr. Samuel Mudd interweaves with current crimes. In a coincidence best left unscrutinized, Anna's great-great-great-aunt was the wife of the fort's commanding officer, and her letters, relating a story of intrigue and murder, have surfaced. The two stories are told in alternating chapters, and only Barr's skill keeps this familiar device fresh. The pitch-perfect 19th-century phrasing in the letters makes it easy to forgive the occasional over-the-top prose in the modern scenes. But this is a quibble. Those who already admire the doughty National Park ranger will rejoice in this double-layered story with its remarkable setting, passionately rendered; new readers have a treat in store. (Feb. 10) Forecast: Backed by a 20-city author tour, this one will shoot up the bestseller lists. (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved


Library Journal Review

This is not your typical Barr suspense novel as she interweaves two different stories set nearly 150 years apart. Ranger Anna Pigeon is temporarily assigned to duty in the isolated paradise of the Dry Tortugas, and her half of the tale takes place underwater and in a Civil War fort/prison turned National Park. The other mystery occurred at the end of that war, involving Dr. Samuel Mudd of the Lincoln conspiracy, and is revealed in a series of letters written by Anna's great-great-great-aunt. The novelist manages to sustain the tension in both stories and leaves one begging for more as each chapter moves back and forth in time. Reader Barbara Rosenblat masterfully captures all the characters in both time periods. An excellent example of what an audiobook should be.-Joyce Kessel, Villa Maria Coll., Buffalo, NY (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.


Excerpts

Excerpts

1. Until she ran out of oxygen, Anna was willing to believe she was taking part in a PBS special. The water was so clear sunlight shone through as if the sea were but mountain air. Cloud shadows, stealthy and faintly magical at four fathoms, moved lazily across patches of sand that showed startlingly white against the dark, ragged coral. Fishes colored so brightly it seemed it must be a trick of the eye or the tail end of an altered state flitted, nibbled, explored and slept. Without moving, Anna could see a school of silver fish, tiny anchovies, synchronized, moving like polished chain mail in a glittering curtain. Four Blue Tangs, so blue her eyes ached with the joy of them, nosed along the edge of a screamingly purple sea fan bigger than a coffee table. A jewfish, six feet long and easily three hundred pounds, his blotchy hide mimicking the sun-dappled rock, pouting lower lip thick as Anna's wrist, lay without moving beneath an overhang of a coral-covered rock less than half his size, his wee fish brain assuring him he was hidden. Countless other fish, big and small, bright and dull, ever more delightful to Anna because she'd not named them and so robbed them of a modicum of their mystery, moved around her on their fishy business. Air, and with it time, was running out. If she wished to live, she needed to breathe. Her lungs ached with that peculiar sensation of being full to bursting. Familiar desperation licked at the edges of her mind. One more kick, greetings to a spiny lobster (a creature whose body design was only possible in a weightless world), and, with a strong sense of being hounded from paradise, she swam for the surface, drove a foot or more into the air and breathed. The sky was as blue as the eye-watering fishes and every bit as merciless as the sea. The ocean was calm. Even with her chin barely above the surface she could see for miles. There was remarkably little to soothe the eye between the unrelenting glare of sea and sky. To the north was Garden Key, a scrap of sand no more than thirteen acres in total and, at its highest point, a few meters above sea level. Covering the key, two of its sides spilling out into the water, was the most bizarre duty station at which she had served. Fort Jefferson, a massive brick fortress, had been built on this last lick of America, the Dry Tortugas, seventy miles off Key West in the Gulf of Mexico. At the time construction started in 1846, it was the cutting edge of national defense. Made of brick and mortar with five bastions jutting out from the corners of a pentagon, it had been built as the first line of defense for the southern states, guarding an immense natural-and invisible-harbor; it was the only place for sixty miles where ships could sit out the hurricanes that menaced the Gulf and the southeastern seaboard or come under the protection of the fort's guns in time of war. Though real, the harbor was invisible because its breakwaters, a great broken ring of coral, were submerged. Jefferson never fired a single shot in defense of its country. Time and substrata conspired against it. Before the third tier of the fort could be completed, the engineers noticed the weight of the massive structure was causing it to sink and stopped construction. Even unfinished it might have seen honorable-if not glamorous-duty, but the rifled cannon was invented, and the seven-to-fifteen-foot-thick brick-and-mortar walls were designed only to withstand old-style cannons. Under siege by these new weapons of war, the fort would not stand. Though destined for glorious battle, Jefferson sat out the Civil War as a union prison. Till Anna had been assigned temporary duty at the Dry Tortugas, she'd not even heard of it. Now it was home. For a moment she merely treaded water, head thrown back to let the sun seek out any epithelial cell it hadn't already destroyed over the last ten years. Just breathing-when the practice had recently been denied-was heaven. Somewhere she'd read that a meager seventeen percent of air pulled in by the lungs was actually used. Idly, she wondered if she could train her body to salvage the other eighty-three percent so she could remain underwater ten minutes at a stretch rather than two. Scuba gave one the time but, with the required gear, not the freedom. Anna preferred free diving. Three times she breathed deep, on the third she held it, upended and kicked again for bliss of the bottom. Flashing in the sun, she was as colorful as any fish. Her mask and fins were iridescent lime green, her dive skin startling blue. Though the water was a welcoming eighty-eight degrees in late June, that was still eight point six degrees below where she functioned best. For prolonged stays in this captivating netherworld she wore a skin, a lightweight body-hugging suit with a close-fitting hood and matching socks. Not only did it conserve body heat, but it also protected her from the sometimes vicious bite of the coral. Like all divers who weren't vandals, Anna assiduously avoided touching-and so harming-living coral, but when they occasionally did collide, human skin was usually as damaged as the coral. Again she stayed with and played with the fish until her lungs felt close to bursting. Though it would be hotly debated by a good percentage of Dry Tortugas National Park's visitors, as far as she was concerned the "paradise" part of this subtropical paradise was hidden beneath the waves. Anna had never understood how people could go to the beach and lie in the sand to relax. The shore was a far harsher environment than the mountains. Air was hot and heavy and clung to the skin. Wind scoured. Sand itched. Salt sucked moisture from flesh. The sun, in the sky and again off the surface of the sea, seared and blinded. For a couple of hours each day it was heaven. After that it began to wear one down as the ocean wears away rock and bone. Two dive sites, twenty dives-the deepest over forty feet-and Anna finally tired herself out. Legs reduced to jelly from pushing through an alien universe, she couldn't kick hard enough to rise above the surface and pull herself over the gunwale. Glad there were no witnesses, she wriggled and flopped over the transom beside the outboard motor to spill on deck, splattering like a bushel of sardines. Her "Sunday" was over. She'd managed to spend yet one more weekend in Davy Jones's locker. There wasn't really any place else to go. The Reef Ranger , one of the park's patrol boats, a twenty-five-foot inboard/outboard Boston Whaler, the bridge consisting of a high bench and a Plexiglas windscreen, fired up at a touch. Anna upped anchor, then turned the bow toward the bastinadoed fortress that was to be her home for another eight to twelve weeks. Seen from the level of the surrounding ocean, Fort Jefferson presented a bleak and surreal picture: an overwhelming geometric tonnage floating, apparently unsupported, on the surface of the sea. Enjoying the feel of a boat beneath her after so many years in landlocked parks, Anna headed for the fort. The mariners' rhyme used to help those new to the water remember which markers to follow when entering heavy traffic areas rattled meaninglessly through her mind: red on right returning. Shrunken by salt and sun, her skin felt two sizes too small for her bones, and even with dark glasses and the sun at her back, it was hard to keep her eyes open against the glare. The opportunity to serve as interim supervisory ranger for the hundred square miles of park, scarcely one of which was above water, came in May. Word trickled down from the southeastern region that the Dry Tortugas' supervisory ranger had to take a leave of absence for personal reasons and a replacement was needed until he returned or, failing that, a permanent replacement was found. Dry Tortugas National Park was managed jointly with southern Florida's Everglades National Park. The brass all worked out of Homestead, near Everglades. Marooned as it was, seventy miles into the Gulf, day-to-day operations of the Dry Tortugas were run by a supervisory ranger, who managed one law enforcement ranger, two interpreters and an office administrator. Additional law enforcement had been budgeted and two rangers hired. They were new to the service and, at present, being trained at the Federal Law Enforcement Training Center in Georgia. "Supervisory Ranger" was a title that bridged a gray area in the NPS hierarchy. For reasons to which Anna was not privy, the head office chose not to upgrade the position to Chief Ranger but left it as a subsidiary position to the Chief Ranger at Everglades. Still, it was a step above Anna's current District Ranger level on the Natchez Trace. To serve as "Acting Supervisory Ranger" was a good career move. That wasn't entirely why she'd chosen to abandon home and hound for three months to accept the position. Anna was in no hurry to rush out of the field and into a desk job. There'd be time enough for that when her knees gave out or her tolerance for the elements-both natural and criminal-wore thin. She had taken the Dry Tortugas assignment for personal reasons. When she was in a good frame of mind, she told herself she'd needed to retreat to a less populated and mechanized post to find the solitude and unmarred horizons wherein to renew herself, to seek answers. When cranky or down, she felt it was the craven running away of a yellow-bellied deserter. Paul Davidson, his divorce finalized, had asked her to marry him. Two days later, a car, a boat and a plane ride behind her-not to mention two thousand miles of real estate, a goodly chunk of it submerged-she was settling into her quarters at Fort Jefferson. "Coincidence?" her sister Molly had asked sarcastically. "You be the judge." --from Flashback by Nevada Barr, Copyright © 2003 Nevada Barr, Published by G.P. Putnam's Sons, a member of the Penguin Group (USA), Inc., All Rights Reserved, Reprinted with Permission from the Publisher. Excerpted from Flashback by Nevada Barr All rights reserved by the original copyright owners. Excerpts are provided for display purposes only and may not be reproduced, reprinted or distributed without the written permission of the publisher.