It’s emblematic of my nature that, having decided that I should read novels for fun again, I have gone on a freakin’ bender.
Right now, I’m poaching in Hillbilly Highways’ territory with Bearskin by James A. McLaughlin. Hope HP doesn’t get too riled.
Damn, it’s good. There’s probably nothing I like better than a “literary” crime novel. McLaughlin can flat write — his descriptions of the Appalachian backcountry and the Arizona desert are sensuous and immersive. You don’t often get the smell of the country, and McLaughlin gives us that. And he’s got a good yarn to tell:
Rice Moore is just beginning to think his troubles are behind him. He’s found a job protecting a remote forest preserve in Virginian Appalachia where his main responsibilities include tracking wildlife and refurbishing cabins. It’s hard work, and totally solitary—perfect to hide away from the Mexican drug cartels he betrayed back in Arizona. But when Rice finds the carcass of a bear killed on the grounds, the quiet solitude he’s so desperately sought is suddenly at risk.
More bears are killed on the preserve and Rice’s obsession with catching the poachers escalates, leading to hostile altercations with the locals and attention from both the law and Rice’s employers. Partnering with his predecessor, a scientist who hopes to continue her research on the preserve, Rice puts into motion a plan that could expose the poachers but risks revealing his own whereabouts to the dangerous people he was running from in the first place.
McLaughlin is a Jim Harrison fan and he knows what a “Mozambique” is. He is our kin.
Other than some missed sleep, this bender has done me no harm and quite a lot of good. Think I’ll keep rollin’.