Ranger Pigeon is back at Isle Royale, only this time it is January. The island is isolated and something strange is happening with the winter wolf study. Nevada Barr has written another compelling story, her usual description heavy style at it's best. One feels as if one is there, and could recognize the terraine. The mystery is a combination of horror-like happenings and murder to boot. I really enjoy Nevada Barr, and this one doesn't disappoint. Anna is up to her hips in snow and ice and murder.
It's been fifteen years since National Park Service law enforcement officer Anna Pigeon was at Isle Royale National Park, and then she had the good sense to work there in the summer. However, she just couldn't pass up the chance to work with the famous "Winter Study"--scientists and researchers who study the wolf and moose populations of northern Michigan as their predecessors have for fifty years. In terms of data and knowledge gained, it's the most valuable study of its kind. Now it's in danger of being shut down due to Homeland Security's concerns about its Canadian border location.
It's a thousand times colder than that proverbial well digger's knee. Anna has so many layers of clothing on she feels like the Michelin woman, and she's still freezing. The staff quarters are less than salubrious, and to make matters worse, the resident Homeland Security bureaucrat is a complete jerk. Then strange things begin to happen. Wolves appear at their living quarters (an unheard of behavior), and they find the mutilated body of a fellow researcher out in the snow--along with the huge tracks of an unidentified beast. What in the world is going on, and with the weather closing in and shutting them off from the outside world...is anyone really safe?
I've been a "friend" of Anna's since her very first appearance in Track of the Cat. For two people who look no more alike than Laurel and Hardy, Anna and I share many psychological similarities. We both detest the cold, we both become depressed when too many overcast days string themselves together, we both prefer solitude and nature to most of the humans we know, we'd rather take a beating than walk into a cave, and it's usually more than we can take to put up with bombastic idiots. With that many quirks in common, you can see why I like her.
Barr worked her magic on me once again. As I turned the pages, I broke out in goosebumps and had to cover up with a blanket. She knows how to describe the cold! Whenever Anna and her cohorts went trekking any distance over the snow, I felt as though I were trudging right along with them, and I desperately wanted eyes in the back of my head because the creature that was killing people seriously creeped me out. I was there with Anna in almost every possible way I could be except physically. I had a vague idea of what was going on, but by the time Anna revealed all, I still hadn't pieced it all together.
For me, Winter Study is another strong entry in one of my favorite mystery series. And one that I will never consider actually reading in the winter. Without doubt, I'd keel over from terminal cold and goosebumps!
Mysteries usually aren't my favorite books to read, but this one I enjoyed. I am a huge nature-lover, so the backdrop of a long-term wolf study during winter was highly appealing to me. I couldn't hardly put it down, I was so eager to learn what was to come next! I have never read any other books by Nevada Barr, so I am unfamiliar with Anna's history, but this was a good standalone book -- never did I feel at a loss or disadvantage for not having read the previous books in the series. Good book, good plot, and although it lost credibility toward the end, I still enjoyed it.
I don't like the cold and this book only reinforces that! Winter Study is an actual ongoing study of wolves on Isle Royal in Lake Superior. In this fictional thriller, Homeland Security has determined that they need to keep Isle Royal, which is normally closed to the public during the winter, open year-round for security purposes, and have sent a representative to the island to evaluate the study and determine the feasibility of doing this. Naturally the park's scientists are fighting for their livelihood and the survival of the wolves and their research. When Ranger Anna Pigeon arrives on the island, she finds herself embroiled in the tensions between them, which escalate when signs of an unusually large wolf with abnormal behavior are spotted. When one of the scientists is killed by what appears to be a giant wolf, Anna feels there is something more going on and starts gathering evidence on her own. When she herself is almost killed falling into the frozen lake, Anna begins to wonder if there is a murderer among them, but can't fathom why. What her investigation reveals to her is that in the stark bleak winter wilderness, the most savage and bestial creature is man...
It is January, and Park Ranger Anna Pigeon is sent to Isle Royale in Lake Superior to learn about managing and understanding wolves, as her home base of Rocky Mountain National Park might soon have its own pack of the magnificent, much- maligned animals. She's lodging in the island's bunkhouse with the famed wolf study team, along with two scientists from Homeland Security, who are assessing the study with an eye to opening the park in the winters - an act that would effectively bring an end to the fifty-year project - so that the area can be manned to secure the scrap of border with Canada.
Soon after Anna's arrival, the wolf packs under observation begin to behave in peculiar ways. Giant wolf prints are found, and Anna spies the form of a great wolf from a surveillance plane. The discovery of wolf scat containing alien DNA leads the group to believe that perhaps a wolf/dog hybrid has been introduced to the island. When a female member of the team is savaged, Anna is convinced she is being stalked, and what was once a beautiful, idyllic refuge becomes a place of unnatural occurrences and danger beyond the ordinary. Alone on an island without electricity or running water, with temperatures hovering around zero both day and night, Anna fights not only for the wolves but for her own survival as well.