- About the Book
A gritty and captivating debut about a caretaker of an Appalachian nature preserve who gets embroiled in a dangerous bear-poaching scheme--for fans of Smith Henderson, Ron Rash, and Daniel WoodrellRice 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.James McLaughlin expertly brings the beauty and danger of Appalachia to life. The result is an elemental, slow burn of a novel--one that will haunt you long after you turn the final page.
McLaughlin writes about the natural world with casual lyricism and un-self-conscious joy, while describing physical violence so vividly you want to look away.... But McLaughlin is just as remarkable when he turns to other subjects, like the lost lover who wore her hair in a thick black braid, a magnificent thing that just now rested on her left shoulder like a sleeping mamba. That's the kind of writing that makes me shiver.
—New York Times
—New York Times
Bearskin comes into its own in the last hundred pages, by which time all the backstories have been told and the cartel's hit man has reached the preserve. Like a slow-motion cinematographer, McLaughlin skillfully breaks down the actions of hunter and hunted into their constituent parts.... Bearskin, then, may call for a little patience from the reader. But stick with the novel and you'll be rewarded with some of the best action writing in recent fiction.
BEARSKIN's language is taut and tense. Virtually every sentence is crafted to keep readers slightly on edge, just as Rice himself is incapable of truly relaxing, even surrounded by the natural world that both astounds and sustains him. Readers will be hard-pressed to put down this propulsive narrative once they pick it up. James A. McLaughlin's impressive, at times harrowing debut is suffused with violent images, including disturbing animal imagery as well as even more brutal scenes of human violence and torture. BEARSKIN illustrates the potential of humans to be both savage and gracious toward one another.