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Bearskin by James A. McLaughlin

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The protagonist of this novel, Rice Moore, is working as the caretaker of a forest preserve in the mountains of Virginia. When he begins to find bear carcasses on the land, his efforts to stop the poachers are complicated. He needs to keep his identity secret because before he took this job he aroused the murderous ire of some drug cartel operatives.  And he needs to decide how to relate to the woman who had this job before him, a scientist who has a research project going on this land, and also has a complicated past. Publisher’s Weekly gave this novel a starred review, and called it “A thrilling, thoroughly satisfying debut.” Kirkus Reviews  also gave it a starred review and commented, “It’s a violent, compelling story that uses its milieu to incredible effect . . . An intense, visceral debut equal to the best that country noir has to offer.” The New York Times Book Review called it, “Gruesomely gorgeous. . . . McLaughlin writes about the natural world with a casual lyricism and un-self-conscious joy. . . . The kind of writing that makes me shiver.” The  Washington Post concluded it contained, “some of the best action writing in recent fiction.”  This is McLaughlin’s first novel.  Now in his fifties, he grew up in rural Virginia, has both law and MFA degrees from the University of Virginia, and currently lives in Utah’s Wasatch Range.

New York: Ecco/HarperCollins, 2018. 343 pages. Hardback in dust jacket, $26.99