Nevada Barr – “Destroyer Angel”

Destroyer-Angel-BookshotDestroyer Angel is rock ‘em, sock ‘em from start to finish. Nevada Barr channels Lee Child. Anna Pigeon finds her inner Jack Reacher. Destroyer Angel is relentless. There is no mystery here, just Anna in a bad spot from the get-go.

In this corner, Anna and her four female wilderness-exploring friends. Two teenagers, one paraplegic, one “mad scientist.” And an old dog.

In that corner, four thugs. One is “scum for hire,” even in the view of the leader. Another is a “low-end drug dealer” who owes the bookies big-time. Another is “small-time muscle.” Shocking but true: they don’t all get along.

The bad guys have some sort of plan but it isn’t entirely clear. They are certainly after Anna & Co. Mostly the Co. The plan evolves. There’s a landing strip they need to locate, a plane due soon for a pick-up and woods in which to get lost.

When the story starts, Anna is off on the river by herself so when she returns to camp and realizes her friends have been joined by some extremely grumpy company, guess who must save the day?

And we’re off. I don’t have a spreadsheet handy from the 17 other Anna Pigeon novels (and I haven’t read them all) but I do believe Ms. Pigeon inflicts more damage on the creeps here than in any other previous adventure. She also suffers more wounds and oozes more blood.

With Nevada Barr’s tasty prose leading the way and Anna’s unique insights available to us at every bloody turn, Destroyer Angel cruises along. Amid the action, Barr’s unique style and Anna’s strong voice ring through. “The air was a delicate balance. The last of summer rested on the skin as the prickle of coming winter brushed the mind. Anna could taste the fertile loamy scent of leaves, fall and readying to return to the earth, and the lingering smell of warm grass, dust, and pine. Mated with the spicy scent of campfire smoke, it triggered a longing for sometime, someplace, someone that never existed, but was nonetheless exquisite, and to be deliciously mourned.”

The straight storyline rarely stops for a breath, but what pulls us along is Anna’s ongoing inner monologue—a frothy mix of wry humor, thoughts on god and references to forgotten movies such as “Little Big Man” or the lumberjack bit from Monty Python.

At the outset of Destroyer Angel, Pigeon is able to save the lone old dog from the bad guys so Anna and the pup form a pair of wounded soldiers who work together. There is a lot of talking to the dog and expressionless reactions from the canine. Plausibility is dunked, briefly, in the cold waters of the river. The bad guys are appropriately dumb and appropriately chicken at the right times. Bears and wolves, oh my. Bullets fly, clouds descend, snippets of conversation are overheard at just the right time and poisonous mushrooms are pocketed for future use. That dog knows just when to be quiet.

And Anna slogs on. No “mystery” here. No red herrings or clue-finding (maybe a bit at the beginning). It’s Anna Pigeon versus nature and four oafs. Who says the women can’t get tough as nails? Who?