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Publishers Weekly® Reviews
- Reviewed in: Publishers Weekly, page .
- Review Date: 2010-12-20
- Reviewer: Staff
Boyle (The Women) spins a grand environmental and family drama revolving around the Channel Islands off Santa Barbara in his fiery latest. Alma Boyd Takesue is an unassuming National Park Service biologist and the public face of a project to eradicate invasive species, such as rats and pigs, from the islands. Antagonizing her is Dave LaJoy, a short-tempered local business owner and founder of an organization called For the Protection of Animals. What begins as the disruption of public meetings and protests outside Alma's office escalates as Dave realizes he must take matters into his own hands to stop what he considers to be an unconscionable slaughter. Dave and Alma are at the center of a web of characters—among them Alma's grandmother, who lost her husband and nearly drowned herself in the channel, and Dave's girlfriend's mother, who lived on a sheep ranch on one of the islands—who provide a perspective that man's history on the islands is a flash compared to nature's evolution there. Boyle's animating conflict is tense and nuanced, and his sleek prose yields a tale that is complex, thought-provoking, and darkly funny—everything we have come to expect from him. (Feb.)
Provocative questions fill Boyle's latest
Trouble is brewing on the Channel Islands, off the coast of Santa Barbara. Here, on America’s version of the Galapagos Islands, many unique species are under assault. Someone has inadvertently introduced a species of rat—rattus rattus—to this fragile and ecologically rich area, and the rats are driving out rare, more exotic animals. The problem creates two warring camps. On one side, crusader Alma Boyd Takesue proposes to kill the rats with a method as humane as possible, so that the Islands’ delicate biological balance can survive. On the other side, fierce-tempered businessman Dave LaJoy feels that no group of animals deserves priority over any other; all creatures deserve to live, even rats. The conflict leads to several tense moments—a shouting match at a museum, a court case and an escalating sense of dread and hysteria.
T.C. Boyle presents an interesting question in When the Killing’s Done: If one species has a right to live in a certain area, shouldn’t all species be able to live there? Boyle’s novel is not just a ripped-from-the-headlines page-turner, but also a careful study of two memorable antagonists. Alma seems to leap from the page, and Dave will appeal to anyone who detects a whiff of hypocrisy in the idea of exterminating invasive species. Boyle’s lyrical, energetic prose is a pleasure: Anger surfaces “like a submerged log riding a contrail of swamp gas,” and a flashlight is “a darkened cylinder . . . held out like a homing device.”
Anyone who enjoys the topical, provocative novels of Jodi Picoult will want to pick up a copy of When the Killing’s Done. And, of course, Boyle’s countless fans—who have followed his career from Drop City to The Women—will want to get their hands on this new book.