Ranger thriller brings murder to Acadia

Boar Island cover barrTrouble seems to follow Anna Pigeon. Now it has followed her to Acadia.

The latest thriller in Nevada Barr’s popular series of murder mysteries set in America’s national parks brings Anna, a veteran of the National Park Service, to Acadia as acting chief ranger.

Mayhem isn’t far behind.

The book, which will be published next month, is “Boar Island.”

The fictional island is based on the real Bear Island, one of the five islands that make up the town of Cranberry Isles.

There are actually two mysteries to be solved in “Boar Island,” Barr said in a telephone interview with the Islander last week.

“In one mystery, one of my favorite old characters is trying to get her daughter away from some really vicious cyber-stalking, so she comes to Boar Island,” Barr said.

The other mystery involves what she described as “lobster wars.”

“Boar Island” is different in at least one respect from most of the 18 books in the Anna Pigeon series that have preceded it.

“It is a mystery, but you know who did it,” Barr said. “It’s more of a psychological thriller. I think the villain is one of the most interesting characters. I had a lot of fun with that.”

The book’s publisher, Minotaur Books, describes “Boar Island” as “a brilliant intertwining of past and present, of victims and killers, in a compelling novel that only Nevada Barr could write.”

The official release date for the book is May 17. Barr plans to be at Jesup Memorial Library in Bar Harbor the evening of May 23 for a reading and book signing.

Barr said it is pure coincidence that her mystery set in Acadia is coming out during Acadia’s centennial year. She visited the park and did research for the book several years ago.

“Then it got put aside because some other books came along and trampled me, and I finally got around to writing it last year,” she said.

Nevada Barr

Nevada Barr

When Barr writes about national parks and park rangers, she writes from experience. She worked in three national parks – Isle Royale in Michigan, Guadalupe Mountains in Texas and Mesa Verde in Colorado – and on the Natchez Trace Parkway in Mississippi.

Barr said that when she started writing mysteries set in national parks, she wondered how her Park Service colleagues would respond “because sometimes the park people are the bad guys.”

“But they have been amazingly supportive and love the books. I think that’s because the Park Service is one of the most over-educated bureaucracies around, and they know that fiction is fiction. They seem to have as much fun with it as I do.”

June Devisfruto, concessions manager at Acadia, is both a fan and a longtime friend. She and Barr roomed together one summer when they were both patrol rangers on the Natchez Trace Parkway in the early 1990s. When Barr visited Acadia to research “Boar Island” a few years ago, she stayed in seasonal housing at Acadia’s Schoodic Education and Research Center, where Devisfruto was program manager.

“She is quite a character, a very free spirit,” Devisfruto said of Barr. “People just take to her. When she was here, we did some cookouts, and I introduced her to a lot of different people who talked to her and toured her around.”

Barr said she got so many ideas for the book that she couldn’t use them all.

“I loved everything about Acadia,” she said.

Besides the fact that it’s “gorgeous,” she said, there is such a rich mix of people in the communities around the park, “from people who own summer mansions to people who run lobster boats for a living.”

“There were just too many opportunities to kill people,” she said gleefully.

One of the people Barr spent time with while visiting Acadia was Stuart West, the park’s actual chief ranger.

“She is an engaging character; we loved her company,” West said.

Asked if she could reveal anything else about the plot or characters of “Boar Island,” Barr joked, “What I can tell you without ruining it is that it is a really good book. Jump right in. Buy two.”

Dick Broom

Dick Broom

Reporter at Mount Desert Islander
Dick Broom covers the towns of Mount Desert and Southwest Harbor, Mount Desert Island High School and the school system board and superintendent's office. He enjoys hiking with his golden retriever and finding new places for her to swim. [email protected]
Dick Broom

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