Book review: Bearskin — by James A. McLaughlin

Ecco Press
It’s clear from the beginning that Rice Moore is a person with a past that he would like to conceal. Hired on as a caretaker at a remote compound in the the West Virginia mountains, he is stealthy, agile and well-trained with a firearm, and on edge. He is there to track species movement and protect the habitat, employed by a wealthy out-of-towner to “preserve the wilderness,” a task that doesn’t sit well with the locals. When a slew of bears, dismembered and mutilated, are discovered, Rice decides to take on the poachers himself, discovering the hard way that he isn’t dealing with amateurs. The novel, in muscular and vivid prose, reveals the brutality and beauty of animal nature, the dance of prey and predator, the necessary, desperate fight for survival, juxtaposed with the often unnecessary and unbearably brutal cruel acts of human nature. Shot through with crystalline observations of the natural world and wry and extremely apt revelations of people and their motivations, this book is a marvel, stunning to read, and hard to put down. Horrific and realistic in one instance, hallucinatory and dreamlike in the next. Rice’s measured approach to all things sets a strong, steady cadence that fuses the book together for a taut, thrilling ride to an inevitable, chilling conclusion.
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