Burn by Nevada Barr is the sixteenth novel in the Anna Pigeon Park Ranger series.
0 out of 10 stars. As a bibliophile I never thought I would say this but everyone needs to burn this book. I’ll outline the thin plot and then explain why this is not only overly graphic, sickeningly akin to child porn, and completely unrealistic.
The story begins with flipping back and forth (done badly and in a choppy fashion) between the viewpoint of a woman named Clare and the main character Anna Pigeon. Clare’s journey starts in Seattle where she is fleeing a murder wrap for killing her two children by burning down her house. In reality she was framed and her children are alive and have been trafficked into a child pornography ring of pedophiles. Are child and human trafficking rings and groups of pedophiles realistic and disgustingly more common than the should be? Yes. Do they ever explain why these people went through the trouble of burning her whole house down in the middle of the night and framing her instead of snatching two kids from a single mom while she is out grocery shopping? No. And this is the first in a long line of unbelievable and unrealistic stretches the author makes.
Anna Pigeon is in New Orleans visiting her blind jazz musician friend. There is no National Park in this series, which is vastly disappointing because for most Barr readers that is the only point of her books. Not so here we only get a 100 square foot jazz museum and a lot of crappy references to Shakespeare and jazz throughout the novel. Another tenant living where Anna is renting a room is Jordan, a guy who she catches following young girls. As soon as Clare made it to New Orleans I figured out she was Jordan in disguise so that was really no twist at all. There are some gruesome animal objects left for Anna that became a ridiculous red herring to tip her hat to voodoo in New Orleans. It was poorly done, didn’t go anywhere, and she obviously didn’t do her research.
Once Anna finds out who Jordan is and teams up with her, there are giant quantum leaps made to track down where the kids are being held and unveiling a pedophile ring. This includes an absolutely grotesque scene of them walking through an orgy house where young girls are all wearing animal masks. This is also my first gripe, these women are bordering each side of 18 but do either of them try to save these women? No! They find out who is running the place and follow him to where he is holding the kids. No effort is shown to go back to these victims it’s dropped like a hot potato.
Once they corner the men, one of whom is the local Police Chief, Clare sets fire to the place before even getting the kids out!!! She has to crawl her way back in later to get her other daughter. :0 Anna also cripples the chief to keep him alive so they have real evidence and can find out how far this goes in terms of states and victims. Clare shoots him in the head before he can tell them where the rest of the victims are. Why?? The ending is abrupt and leaves almost every single plot point hanging in the air.
So here’s a short summary of all the problems with this ridiculous plot:
- Barr was obviously trying to copy True Detective season 1 but did a horrible job, was WAY too graphic, and made outlandish leaps of logic.
- There were no real “investigation” or smart moments. Pigeon literally has this dropped in her lap and is pretty worthless in terms of saving anyone or getting real evidence.
- Clare’s story had the potential for an epic revenge moment. Instead she is a complete moron, chain smokes as part of her “undercover” persona of Jordan, and immediately spills her whole story to Pigeon after knowing her for 10 minutes. I don’t think so. Her sections were also horribly choppy because every scene is interrupted with one of her Shakespearean quotes to herself.
- Anna is married to Paul as of 3 books ago yet the synopsis calls him her “new husband” even though this takes place 3 years after they’ve been married.
- The synopsis also tries to make this sound like a voodoo story and makes no illusions to the depravity and child exploitation it contains.
- Paul is a sheriff and yet Anna decides she doesn’t want to tell him anything about what she has witnessed. In fact she seems completely unaffected by the horrors she has witnessed which makes her even more unlikable (I didn’t think that was possible).
- Henchmen left in the wind. No punishment for the guy who is actually snatching these girls they never come back to him.
0 out of 10 stars. I wouldn’t even donate this book to Goodwill. The exploitation of children should not be fodder for poorly written novels. 🙁