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Authors: Nevada Barr

A Superior Death

BOOK: A Superior Death
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Table of Contents
Praise for
“Barr writes in a tangled, rich, descriptive language . . . it has an engrossing pull that gives a vivid feel for the terrain and those who have found their niche in this rather forbidding, gloomy, and chilling landscape . . . A wonderfully satisfying read.”

The Washington Post Book World
“An engrossing story of death and deceit . . . [an] absorbing novel.”

The Dallas Morning News
“A vivid finish.”

Los Angeles Times
“Barr crafts a cunning mystery, and, as usual, her writing about the natural landscape and its history is magical.”

The Orlando Sentinel
“One of the best . . . Barr weaves mystery with social and political themes . . . and consistently entertains.”

U.S. News & World Report
“Barr is a gifted storyteller with a nice sense of plotting and a near-poet’s touch when it comes to describing primitive Superior country, a land of soaring bluffs, coves, deep forests, and beckoning islands.”

The Buffalo News
“The final revelation of culprit and motive will surprise all but the most alert readers. A crackling good mystery, fleshed out by a detective and a supporting cast far more human than they need to be.”—
Kirkus Reviews
Praise for
and the award-winning Anna Pigeon novels . . .
“Nevada Barr is one of the best.”—
The Boston Globe
“A constant source of pleasure.”—
San Francisco Chronicle
“Nevada Barr writes with a cool, steady hand about the violence of nature and the cruelty of man.”

The New York Times Book Review
“A true original . . . like a combination of Henry David Thoreau, Mark Twain, Sherlock Holmes, and Maureen O’Hara, the engaging character of Anna Pigeon is the only reason most readers will need to return to this series again and again. But it doesn’t hurt that Barr can write rhapsodic passages about America’s beautiful parks and cobble up page-turning whodunits.”—
The Denver Post
“Nevada Barr can take the most improbable plot and turn it into a fascinating foray into the human psyche, then dress it up with eloquent description of the great outdoors she so obviously adores . . . She’s also one of the more eloquent mystery writers around, having the ability to make you feel the chill of the night, smell the smoke of a campfire, experience the isolation of the wilderness. She’s worth reading just for that alone.”—
Chicago Tribune
“Barr combines primo mysteries with what always feels like a virtual reality tour of one of the parks . . . There is beauty here. Still, Anna never loses her edginess in a world where your life depends on having a backup light for your backup light.”—
Detroit Free Press
“There truly is no finer writer in the realm today, and her descriptive prose in observance of the natural world is always stunning.”—
“From the fabric of fiction she creates real worlds, sometimes beautiful, sometimes terrifying, but always convincing.”

The San Diego Union-Tribune
Winter Study
Hard Truth
High Country
Hunting Season
Blood Lure
Deep South
Liberty Falling
Blind Descent
Endangered Species
Ill Wind
A Superior Death
Track of the Cat
Seeking Enlightenment . . . Hat by Hat
This is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places, and incidents either are the product of the author’s imagination or are used fictitiously, and any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, business establishments, events, or locales is entirely coincidental.
A Berkley Book / published by arrangement with the author
Avon mass-market edition / May 1995
Berkley mass-market edition / September 2003
Copyright © 1994 by Nevada Barr.
All rights reserved.
This book, or parts thereof, may not be reproduced in any form without permission. The scanning, uploading, and distribution of this book via the Internet or via any other means without the permission of the publisher is illegal and punishable by law. Please purchase only authorized electronic editions, and do not participate in or encourage electronic piracy of copyrighted materials.
Your support of the author’s rights is appreciated. For information address: The Berkley Publishing Group, a division of Penguin Group (USA) Inc., 375 Hudson Street, New York, New York 10014.
eISBN : 978-1-101-04355-4
Berkley Books are published by The Berkley Publishing Group, a division of Penguin Group (USA) Inc.,
375 Hudson Street, New York, New York 10014.
BERKLEY and the “B” design are trademarks belonging to Penguin Group (USA) Inc.

For Peter, who
knows who did it and doesn’t think that necessarily makes them bad people
Special thanks to Daniel Lenihan
hese killers of fish, she thought, will do anything. Through the streaming windscreen Anna could just make out a pale shape bobbing in two-meter waves gray as slate and as unforgiving. An acid-green blip on the radar screen confirmed the boat’s unwelcome existence. A quarter of a mile to the northeast a second blip told her of yet another fool out on some fool’s errand.
She fiddled irritably with the radar, as if she could clear the lake fog by focusing the screen. Her mind flashed on an old acquaintance, a wide-shouldered fellow named Lou, with whom she had argued the appeal—or lack thereof—of Hemingway. Finally in frustration Lou had delivered the ultimate thrust: “You’re a woman. You can’t understand Papa Hemingway.”
Anna banged open her side window, felt the rain on her cheek, running under the cuff of her jacket sleeve. “We don’t understand fishing, either,” she shouted into the wind.
The hull of the Bertram slammed down against the back of a retreating swell. For a moment the bow blocked the windscreen, then dropped away; a false horizon falling sickeningly toward an uncertain finish. In a crashing curtain of water, the boat found the lake once more. Anna swore on impact and thought better of further discourse with the elements. The next pounding might slam her teeth closed on her tongue.
Five weeks before, when she’d been first loosed on Superior with her boating license still crisp and new in her wallet, she’d tried to comfort herself with the engineering specs on the Bertram. It was one of the sturdiest twenty-six-foot vessels made. According to its supporters and the substantiating literature, the Bertram could withstand just about anything short of an enemy torpedo.
On a more kindly lake Anna might have found solace in that assessment. On Superior’s gun-metal waves, the thought of enemy torpedoes seemed the lesser of assorted evils. Torpedoes were prone to human miscalculation. What man could send, woman could dodge. Lake Superior waited. She had plenty of time and lots of fishes to feed.
Belle Isle
plowed through the crest of a three-meter wave and, in the seconds of visibility allowed between the beat of water and wiper blades, Anna saw the running lights of a small vessel ahead and fifty yards to the right.
She braced herself between the dash and the butt-high pilot’s bench and picked up the radio mike. “The
Low Dollar,
Low Dollar,
this is the
Belle Isle.
Do you read?” Through the garble of static a man’s voice replied: “Yeah, yeah. Is that you over there?”
Not for the first time Anna marveled at the number of boaters who survived Superior each summer. There were no piloting requirements. Any man, woman, or child who could get his or her hands on a boat was free to drive it out amid the reefs and shoals, commercial liners and weekend fishing vessels. The Coast Guard’s array of warning signs—Diver Down, Shallow Water, Buoy, No Wake—were just so many pretty wayside decorations to half the pilots on the lake. “Go to six-eight.” Anna switched her radio from the hailing frequency to the working channel: “Affirmative, it’s me over here. I’m going to come alongside on your port side. Repeat: port side. On your left,” she threw in for good measure.
“Um . . . ten-four,” came the reply.
For the next few minutes Anna put all of her concentration into feeling the boat, the force of the engines, the buck of the wind and the lift of the water. There were people on the island—Holly Bradshaw, who crewed on the dive boat the
3rd Sister,
Chief Ranger Lucas Vega, all of the old-timers from Fisherman’s Home and Barnums’ Island, who held commercial fishing rights from before Isle Royale had become a national park—who could dock a speedboat to a whirlwind at high tide. Anna was not among this elite.
She missed Gideon, her saddle horse in Texas. Even at his most recalcitrant she could always get him in and out of the paddock without risk of humiliation. The
Belle Isle
took considerably more conning and, she thought grumpily, wasn’t nearly as good company.
Low Dollar
hove into sight, riding the slick gray back of a wave. Anna reached out of her side window and shoved a fender down to protect the side of the boat. The stern fender was already out. Leaving Amygdaloid Ranger Station, she’d forgotten to pull it in and it had been banging in the water the whole way.
BOOK: A Superior Death
4.53Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub

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