A Superior Death, Nevada Barr

The discussion group met this Wednesday to talk about A Superior Death by Nevada Barr.

It’s the second book in a long-running series about national park ranger Anna Pigeon. At the book’s beginning we learn that Anna’s a widow and a professional Ranger working for the National Park Service, that she’s spending the summer up north on Isle Royale issuing fishing permits and helping stranded boaters, and that while she loves nature, she has less patience with people.

A complicated, involving mystery unwinds involving various summer residents, park service employees, and — most importantly — the lake. Lake Superior becomes a character in its own right, and through Barr’s writing you learn to both love and fear its power, depth, beauty, and unpredictability.

As a whole, the discussion group thought that while Barr’s descriptions of nature and wildlife were inspiring and uplifting, her handling of the characters in the book wasn’t as well-done. The mystery was good, but there was a lot of side-line action that distracted from the main story and primary characters.

If you enjoy this book, I highly recommend picking up The Living Great Lakes by Jerry Dennis — a wonderful account of the author’s experience traveling through all five of the lakes as he helps crew a ship moving from Lake Michigan to the ocean. It would be a great follow up or companion to A Superior Death.

Readers who enjoyed this entry in the series will want to seek out Anna Pigeon’s other adventures, and will be glad to know that Barr is still writing. Her latest, Burn, is on the library’s new shelf right now. Here’s the series from the beginning (thanks to Julia S. for typing this all out):

1. Track of the Cat (1993)
Guadalupe Mountains National Park in Texas

2. A Superior Death (1994)
Isle Royale National Park in Lake Superior, Michigan

3. Ill Wind (1995)
Mesa Verde National Park in Colorado

4. Firestorm (1996)
Lassen Volcanic National Park

5. Endangered Species (1997)
Cumberland Island National Seashore off the coast of Georgia

6. Blind Descent (1998)
Carlsbad Caverns National Park in New Mexico

7. Liberty Falling (1999)
Statue of Liberty and Ellis Island National Monuments in New York City

8. Deep South (2000)
Natchez Trace Parkway in Mississippi

9. Blood Lure (2001)
Glacier/Waterton National Peace Park in Montana

10. Hunting Season (2002)
Natchez Trace Parkway in Mississippi

11. Flashback (2003)
Dry Tortugas National Park, a grouping of tiny islands seventy miles off Key West

12. High Country (2004)
Yosemite National Park in California

13. Hard Truth (2005)
Rocky Mountain National Park, Colorado

14. Winter Study (2008)
Isle Royale National Park in Lake Superior, Michigan

15. Borderline (2009)
Big Bend National Park in Texas

16. Burn (2010)
New Orleans, Louisiana

The group also made its selections for the 2010-2011 season, with The Power of Myth kicking things off in September. To see more about what the group’s reading, visit the library’s GoodReads page.


About Heather Sturm

Director at Manchester District Library
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2 Responses to A Superior Death, Nevada Barr

  1. Maria E. Wolff says:

    Hello Heather:

    I found your post while looking for discussion questions for a A Superior Death. When you group met to discuss this book; what kind of questions were raised? Or did you have a list of questions prepared to talk about? I’m putting together questions for the same book, and was wondering if you could share some of your questions with me. Thank you!

    Maria E. Wolff
    Adult Services Librarian
    Cromaine Library

    • Hi Maria –

      When I can’t find discussion questions for a particular book, I often turn to book reviews (what did the reviewer think? do we agree?) and background on the author for ideas. That’s what I did for this one, too. In this instance one of my group members also brought in maps of Isle Royale and talk a little about her visit there.

      Hope your discussion goes well – Heather

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