Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Clash of Culture in 'Deep South' Mystery Set along Natchez Trace

Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Clash of Culture in 'Deep South' Mystery Set along Natchez Trace

Article excerpt

Title: Deep South Author: Nevada Barr Data: Putnam, 340 pages, $23.95

Review by Bill Roach

Sexism, racism and Deep South prejudices form the backdrop in this latest Anna Pigeon mystery by talented former park ranger Nevada Barr.

This latest challenge for the middle-aged and widowed ranger is laid in Mississippi and along the Natchez Trace Parkway, a place of gentle, peaceful beauty that hides terrible secrets that continue to generate violence.

Anna has won a promotion -- to become the district ranger of the park.

But, even before she unpacks, she runs into hostility from her new park colleagues.

They're suspicious of a Northerner in their midst and they resent having to work under a woman. They question whether she can do her job, and she questions whether she can depend on them.

Her uneasiness escalates when she is placed in a life-threatening situation and her male colleagues find excuses for not being able to come to her assisance.

Then, her situation takes a dark, deadly turn. She stumbles on a drunken prom girl in the deep woods and soon after discovers the beaten body of a young girl near a deserted cemetery. The corpse has a white sheet wrapped around her head and a noose around her neck. There are racial overtones to the killing.

The origin of the terrible crime is hidden in the past, but no one will talk to her about it, not her rangers, not the locals. Her efforts to investigate are frustrated at every turn.

While her co-rangers leave much to be desired, the same is not true of virile Sheriff Paul Davidson, with whom she must work to solve the murder because the body is on federal land.

And she surely has a varied bunch of potential culprits from the get-go.

On her first night in her new surroundings, she meets a group of Civil War re-enactors, a church group of campers, high school prom-goers in a cemetery and a religious lawman. …

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