by McLaughlin, James A.

Hiding out from the Mexican drug cartels he betrayed in Arizona, Rice More, while protecting a remote forest preserve in Virginian Appalachia, exposes a bear-poaching scheme that revelas his location to the criminals he was running from in the first place. 150,000 first printing.

Native Virginian McLaughlin has set his debut novel in the state's rugged Appalachian forestland, which is as haunting and precarious as the story itself. Bears are being baited and killed on a private land preserve, and its caretaker, Rice Moore, becomes obsessed with catching the poachers, which leads him into serious conflict with the locals, who feel they are entitled to roam the property at will. Unfortunately, after both regional and federal law-enforcement agencies become involved, and Moore's former Arizona connections to a Mexican drug cartel are revealed, the caretaker finds himself in a dangerous position on multiple fronts. Moore's character is artfully revealed through flashbacks to what really went down in Arizona and through his interaction with biological researcher Sarah Birkeland. The landscape is rendered in remarkable prose that puts the reader right out on the trail with Moore in his ghillie suit, often lost in a Castaneda-like rapture that contrasts sharply with intermittent bursts of stunning brutality. C. J. Box and Paul Doiron fans will enjoy this edgy tale, with human greed and wildlife exploitation at its heart. Copyright 2018 Booklist Reviews.

A fugitive from a Mexican cartel takes refuge in a forest preserve in the wilds of Virginia. Rice Moore, the troubled protagonist of this hard-edged thriller, can best be described as remote, a characteristic he shares with his hazardous surroundings. He's taken a job, under a false name, as the caretaker for a family-owned nature preserve in the Appalachian Mountains. It's a slim chance for him to escape his past, one that includes a gig as a drug mule for the Sinoloa cartel, the torture, rape, and murder of his girlfriend, and a long stint in a prison in Nogales, where he trained as a sicario—a most hostile killer of men. Rice is a dangerous man, one bound to surprise the bullies, hunters, and motorcycle gangs that roam these mountains. In a very Billy Jack way, he soon runs afoul of all manner of local threats, among them the police, a suspicious neighbor, and a band of predators who have been killing the mountain's bears, removing paws and gallbladders for black-mar ket sale in Asia. Rice also takes offense when he learns that his predecessor, a biologist named Sara Birkeland, was viciously assaulted and raped during her tenure as caretaker. It's a violent, compelling story that uses its milieu to incredible effect. Eventually we find Rice stalking the land in a ghillie suit, blinded by visions, waiting for the kill—a patience that comes in handy when he later finds himself in a desperate showdown, fighting for his life against the past that has come baying for his blood. Told in spare prose and portraying the authentic mechanics of hunting, combat, and psychological defense, the novel dares the reader to root for this damaged antihero but convinces us that he's worth it. An intense, visceral debut equal to the best that country noir has to offer. Copyright Kirkus 2018 Kirkus/BPI Communications. All rights reserved.

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