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by Nevada Barr
G. P.Putnam's Sons, February 2003
400 pages
ISBN: 0399149759

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In Nevada Barr's latest entry of this popular series, the author reinvents the past while Park Ranger Anna Pigeon learns the history of her latest posting. Anna is temporarily stationed at Fort Jefferson, part of the Dry Tortugas National Park seventy miles off Key West, Florida. Its claim to fame is that it served as a Union prison during the Civil War and held some people convicted of being participants in the assassination of President Abraham Lincoln. One of its inmates was Dr. Samuel Mudd whom many historians believe to this day to be an innocent man. On that fateful night on Ford's Theater, John Wilkes Booth shot Lincoln and while trying to escape broke his leg. Dr. Samuel Mudd was present that night and tended to the leg of the notorious actor earning the wrath of many who believed him to be a sympathizer of the killer and getting arrested. He was unpopular with the American public who felt that he should have left well of alone and earned a page in history by becoming part of the English language. "You're name is Mud" is now used to define unwanted people or individuals. In FLASHBACK, Nevada Barr will include him in the story making it clear that the novel is a work of fiction. There is not much that can be done; the Doctor has been dead for several decades.

Anna Pigeon is currently taking a break from her managerial duties at the Natchez Trace to take a temporary assignment in Florida. There is not much to do at Fort Jefferson, just tend to sunburned tourists and go scuba diving. During these moments of solitude, she is contemplating whether she should accept the wedding proposal of her boyfriend, Sheriff Paul Davidson, prior to leaving for Florida. She has been widowed for several years and still loves her husband. She loves Paul, but the past continues to haunt her, she wants to be sure she is ready. Her sister Molly is supportive and has helped Anna deal with her own personal demons. Just for fun, she sends Anna several antique letters written by their great-great-aunt, who lived at Fort Jefferson during the Civil War. Anna is enjoying herself reading the letters to pass the time, but unfortunately, she has work to do. A boat has been destroyed near the fort and one of her rangers is missing. And so, the series continues.

The author alternates chapters in the book dealing with Anna in the present in the odd chapters, while the even ones deals with passages from the letters she received from her sister. Some readers might be annoyed at this tennis match, but it enhances the story. One of the problems this causes is that some chapters end in cliffhangers that you want to ignore the following chapter just to see what happened. Regular fans will welcome Anna back even though the story in the here and now take a back seat to the one from the past. Secrets will be revealed at the end that will change reader's view of history. FLASHBACK is a good book to read even if you have never tried the author before. The change of pace is a nice respite and some might like the history lessons. It is not a Jeff Shaara saga, just a nice and entertaining read.

Reviewed by Angel L. Soto, April 2003

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Contact: Yvonne Klein (ymk@reviewingtheevidence.com)

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