Flashback – Nevada Barr

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As we got started with this, we thought it would be fun because we were in the Florida Keys, swimming with da fishes.  Also, it’s nice, though completely serendipitous connection back to our Lincoln book because Fort Jefferson, where this book takes place, is where Dr. Mudd and the other Lincoln Conspirators spent time.

Who knew?

This was most people’s first Nevada Barr story, an author born in Yerington, of all places.  I have read the one set at Mesa Verde and I like the concept of a park ranger as the main character.  Many people don’t realize just how much law enforcement park rangers and Fish and Game Wardens do.  And, as evidenced by this book, just how alone they are in the commission of their duties.

People were pretty rabid with their dislikes about this book:  They though it took too long to get going, they didn’t like the jumping back and forth between times, and they thought the author took too many words to say things and repeated herself a lot.

One of our members got so fed up with the flipping back and forth in time that when one section ended with a cliff-hanger, she skipped the next section in order to pick up the first story line again.  Others didn’t mind the different storylines as much.

I mostly liked Anna Pigeon and watching her deal with her LSD trips and the struggle for her sanity felt very realistic.  I also found her lightbulb moment, when her boss told her to just ASK for help, very telling.  Aren’t we all a little bit like that?

On the flip side, I thought the diving risks Anna took were stupid, but I guess that’s what law enforcement does — pushes the gas-filled envelope a little bit.  And crawling under the engine?  Oy.

Favorite characters in the present were Anna, Teddy, the lighthouse keepers, Bob Shaw and Daniel (“oh my dear, oh my dear!”). 

Least favorite characters in the present were Anna, who people felt had no personality and wasn’t terribly likeable, Mack, the two bad guys Butch and Perry, the fort, the dark, and the lack of light.

A favorite character in the past was Raffia (she’s got spunk!).  Least favorite characters in the past were Joseph, Sinapp, Raffia, who some thought was a whining gossip, the fort itself, the heat, and wool clothing.

One of our members hadn’t finished reading the book, mostly because she found it so hard to get into.  Another member was new and hadn’t had a chance to read it, but she HAD been to the fort and slept on the beach and regaled us with tales about rats the size of cats.

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Backstabber – Tim Cockey

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We all really enjoyed this book and David started us off by asking whether it was hard to write humor.  The main character, Hitchcock Sewell, is described as the love child of Cary Grant and Groucho Marx, which, of course, we found very amusing, if a little puzzling.

But the irreverence and smart-alecky nature of the character was what we all found so entertaining.  Hitch is an entertaining character with an interesting way of looking at the world and the dialogue was snappy, if sometimes a little too irreverent.

We also had an interesting discussion about what’s so funny about death and we understand that, yes, humor helps the survivors in their loss.  On top of that, funny stuff just happens, even in death.  Mrs. Papadaki dying while sitting on a bench and then being presented in that fashion at her wake is just too gruesomely funny.

We were reminded of the writing styles of Chris Grabenstein and Carl Hiaasen.

We enjoyed the Baltimore setting – Pam wants to go there and admires the work of many writers who write about the city.  Which led to a discussion of food in various locales, most especially New Orleans.

We were all a little disappointed to hear that there weren’t any new Hitchcock Sewell books in the works, but members of the group snatched up previous books in the series that were presented for their edification, along with books by Tim Cockey’s alter ego, Richard Hawke.

Joan presented the list of next year’s books.  It’s now posted on the sidebar.  She tries to find books that will appeal to a wide variety of interests and ones that are also in sufficient numbers in the library system so people don’t have to go buy it.

Next up is Flashback by Nevada Barr, which, serendipitously, takes place in the Dry Tortugas at Fort Jefferson where the Lincoln conspirators where jailed.  Honest!  It was completely unplanned but isn’t it cool how we’re tying back to The 12-Day Chase for Lincoln’s Killer?