Genres: Fiction / Mystery / Crime

Author: James A. McLaughlin

Published June 12th 2018 by Ecco

Hardcover, 352 pages


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.

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.


Author's site:



My Review:



A rural, raw slow burn eco-thriller taking place in the Appalachian Mountains...

Rice Moore has left his past behind to become a caretaker at the Turk Mountain Preserve deep in the Appalachian Mountains. The locals are skeptical of him as he works for what they call “wealthy outsiders”. His predecessor, a woman, was raped while on the job, leaving him consciously aware and skittish of any movements around his living quarters and property. Not to mention his prior assignment to infiltrate a drug cartel at the Arizona-Mexican border, that still haunts his thoughts and every move. 

Rice is a loner but he takes his job seriously. He enjoys nature and spends lots of time out there and one day he finds a bear carcass, mutilated and missing body parts. As the locals seem to think of bears a nuisance anyway, he will be the only one trying to find these poachers. 

Unfortunately as with so many species, bears are hunted for certain body parts to be sold on the Asian market for a huge profit. Rice is getting pretty close to the ring or network of these illegal and atrocious dealings, but not without the occasional leisure of getting high on mushrooms and haunting flashbacks of his past. 

Will the Mexican cartel find him and come after him here in the Appalachian Mountains? Or will he get too close to the poachers, jeopardizing his life and future? 


I picked this book up while I was staying in the Appalachian Mountains this summer, and read it upon my next trip back there that I was fortunate to take. The atmosphere was definitely perfect for it and I had my eye on this read since the time I composed my anticipated titles list for 2018 earlier in the year. 

To fully enjoy this book you would probably be a person that likes nature, wildlife and the outdoors. This story just takes place in a very rural setting, reminiscent of simpler or old times. I had envisioned my experience of reading this book would be one full of nature, but I wasn’t quite ready for it to be so outdoor-man like (for lack of being able to describe it). The tone in the writing was a very consistent, slightly a monotonous one, yet the prose was epic in certain parts. Especially the ones where Rice did the occasional ‘shroom’ psychedelics and is intensely taking in the world around him. Now we are talking about some seriously beautiful prose!

I had hoped I would love this book more than I did. Part of it was the seriousness of it all, part was the disconnect I had with fully relating to this world of hunting and loneliness. I know it is the perfect read for many. I fit somewhere in the middle lane. I am curious about upcoming other reviews. It may just be a love it or hate it sort of book.