Winter Study by Nevada Barr


A friend and I were talking about how we don’t quite trust anyone writing under the name “Nevada.” There is just something slightly off about that (sorry if that is your real name). I was also a bit put off by the southwest look and howling wolf on the front of the book. In fact, I was embarrassed to pull it out lest anyone see and judge. (I know, I’m weird.) Plus, the first 10 to 20 pages were not that gripping.

See? Wolf howling, purples and blues. I don't know, the cover bugs me.

The premise: Anna Pigeon, park ranger in the Rockies, is invited to Isle Royale National Park on Lake Superior to join a wolf/moose study. She arrives in the middle of nowhere in several-degree-below-zero weather in new, uncomfortable gear around new and awkward people, a mix of scientists, an old guide and pilot, and government people bent on opening the Isle for tourism in winter. The story is highly character driven, and Barr does an excellent job making you wary of each of them – entirely necessary for the plot. Strange events occur on the Isle. Wolves are not behaving like wolves; there are prints of something wolf-like but much, much larger. In many ways, this book reminds me of The Terror by Dan Simmons. Something not quite human but not quite animal seems to be tracking the island’s inhabitants. The brutality of nature is ever present and chilling (no pun intended); however, as the book progresses, something even more sinister is at play. A wolf is found brutalized. One of the members of the team disappears, and Pigeon learns she can trust no one.

I was quite wary of this book when I first got it. I was turned off by the name, the cover (see comments re: southwest howling wolf above), so I headed on over to Shelfari to see if I could find out more. Barr certainly has a nice little following over there, and those that enjoy the Pigeon series really enjoyed this book. The technical aspect of the book is not distracting, although it does take quite a bit of explanation, but all in all, by the time I got midway through, I did not want to put it down. Thankfully, my students took a relatively long quiz today, so I read while they wrote.  I got in the car to drive home and immediately pulled it out of my bookbag, devouring the last 30-40 pages while sitting idly. That, to me, is always the sign of a good book.

I still need to go back to the Huston book discussed last week, and of course, I’ve got Mosley’s as well but am saving it, hoarding it away. I took the GRE literature practice test yesterday. It had questions regarding Old English, Middle English, literary theory, transcendentalism…you name it, it was on the test (although, of course, you can’t possibly name them because Old English, really?) It was quite defeating and simply made me realize how little I have actually read. I need to pick up the Norton anthologies and just – dive in. In the meantime, I hope you are reading something interesting. Suggestions are always welcome. 🙂

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