Excerpt from Hunting Season by Nevada Barr, plus links to reviews, author biography & more

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Hunting Season

By Nevada Barr

Hunting Season
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  • Hardcover: Feb 2002,
    320 pages.
    Paperback: Feb 2003,
    352 pages.

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She called dispatch in Tupelo and requested they contact him and the coroner to ask them to come to Mt. Locust.

Handing the radio back to Shelly, who still held the rucksack in front of her like a little kid with a trick-or-treat basket, Anna said, "Camera please." Shelly traded radio for camera, looking serious and professional and happy to have something to do.

Camera to her eye, Anna began framing death; the first step in the compartmentalizing process, boxing off the dead from the living. The last box would be of wood and buried in the ground.

The stand was built in the French style of the early nineteenth century with enclosed rooms or cabinets. Bedrooms didn't open into the central taproom where the travelers ate, but onto the porch. In Polly's room a second door exited out the far side into a storage room with access to the back porch.

Anna clicked four pictures: as wide an angle of the room as she could get in tight quarters, showing the rear door, the bed and the window on the left-hand wall next to a shallow fireplace. The other three were close-ups of those areas. Probably a waste of film but it might be important later when wondering if things were open or closed, locked or unlocked, without having to rely on memory.

Lowering the camera, she looked carefully at the floor. It was of worn planks, with a single tied rag rug to soften it. Visitors were not allowed in this room. The public had to stand behind a waist-high, clear plastic barrier, slid into brackets on the doorframe where Anna stood. The floor was clean, swept, but not recently; a thin film of dust coated the planks. Dust had collected on the dressing table by the door and the rocker in the corner. A couple months' worth at a guess.

The sidelight provided by a low November sun was ideal for her purposes. Anna got down on hands and knees and put her cheek on the doorsill.

"What're you doing?" Shelly asked.

"Looking," Anna returned repressively. Between her nose and the rag rug, the dust was unmarked. Beyond the small rectangle of faded cotton, in the area from the storage room door to the bedside, the dust had been disturbed.

"Get on the radio, Shelly. Have dispatch get in touch with the sheriff. Tell him we got tracks in dust. Special paper, kind of a cross between Saran Wrap and tinfoil, will lift them. Several different brand names. Port Gibson District doesn't have any. Tell him to bring some if he's got it." Anna wasn't optimistic. She'd never worked in a park that kept that kind of stuff on hand. There was no reason a small town sheriff's department would. The technology of criminal investigation had far outstripped most law-enforcement budgets. Taxpayers weren't willing to cough up the funds to equip a town with maybe one homicide every four or five years, and most of those straightforward I-shot-the-son-of-a-bitch-and-here's-why situations, with the high-priced bells and whistles, much less the funding to train an ever-changing cadre of sheriffs' deputies to use them.

Of course, if things got dicey, the public would be up in arms because the combined genius of NASA and the CIA hadn't been brought to bear on whatever backyard slaying the media dictated they take an interest in.

Anna was rather glad that in most places in America crime hadn't reached levels where cutting-edge Buck Rogers goodies were factored into everyday standard operating procedures. In most of the country cops still took pictures, drew sketches and crawled around on their hands and knees with tweezers and envelopes.

Standing up, Anna said, "I'm going in," then nearly laughed out loud. She'd uttered the words with the intensity of Dirty Harry about to clear out a felon-infested warehouse on the New York City docks. Maybe she'd gotten a tad cynical and practiced at looking cool, but the sight of a dead body in suspicious circumstances still triggered an adrenaline rush. It was good to be alive. She reached into the bag Shelly held and took out a tape recorder.

From Hunting Season by Nevada Barr, Copyright © February 2002, The Putnam Publishing Group, a division of Penguin Putnam, Inc., used by permission.

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