From the best-selling author of The Women comes an action-packed adventure about endangered animals and those who would protect them.
Principally set on the wild and sparsely inhabited Channel Islands off the coast of Santa Barbara, T. C. Boyle’s powerful new novel combines pulse-pounding adventure with a socially conscious, richly humane tale regarding the dominion we attempt to exert, for better or worse, over the natural world.
Alma Boyd Takesue is a National Park Service biologist who is spearheading the efforts to save the islands’ endangered native creatures from invasive species like rats and feral pigs, which, in her view, must be eliminated. Her antagonist, Dave LaJoy, is a dreadlocked local businessman who, along with his lover, the folksinger Anise Reed, is fiercely opposed to the killing of any species whatsoever and will go to any lengths to subvert the plans of Alma and her colleagues.
Their confrontation plays out in a series of escalating scenes in which these characters violently confront one another, contemplate acts of sabotage, court danger, and tempt the awesome destructive power of nature itself. Boyle deepens his story by going back in time to relate the harrowing tale of Alma’s grandmother, Beverly, who was the sole survivor of a 1946 shipwreck in the channel, as well as the tragic story of Anise’s mother, Rita, who in the late 1970s lived and worked on a sheep ranch on Santa Cruz Island.
In dramatizing this collision between protectors of the environment and animal rights activists, Boyle is, in his characteristic fashion, examining one of the essential questions of our time: Who has the right of possession of the land, the waters, the very lives of all the creatures who share this planet with us?
From the moment Anthony Heald begins reading When the Killing’s Done, the energy of the novel bursts to life, creating an experience that will have lucky listeners believing that they have survived shipwrecks, chased feral pigs through the underbrush of island wilderness, faced the wrath of hostile protesters, and dined with one of the most irritating individuals ever.
So vibrant is T.C. Boyle’s prose that Heald has a seemingly limitless reservoir of characters and experiences from which to draw. The novel pits passionate animal rights activists against the park service ecologists who are equally passionate about preserving the flora and fauna of the Channel Islands, located just off the coast of California near between Ventura and Santa Barbara. When the Killing’s Done manages to state the case for each side while pointing out the hypocrisies inherent in trying to maintain a black-and-white, take-no-prisoners adherence to any cause.
Where Boyle excels and Heald triumphs is in the vivid descriptions of life on the islands of Anacapa and Santa Cruz and the voyages various characters, past and present, have made to the islands’ rocky shores. Heald’s performance of the wreck of the Beverly B and survival of Beverly Boyd, grandmother of the novel’s female protagonist, Alma Boyd Takasue, will have listeners reaching out to walls or handrails to steady themselves, so realistic is the depiction of the capsizing. There are idyllic journeys led by coastal dolphins and furtive cat-and-mouse chases between activists and Coast Guard boats. Heald relays the imagery in such a realistic manner that sounds and smells of the open ocean are palpable to the mind.
Heald’s tour-de-force is his characterization of wealthy, self-absorbed animal rights activist David LaJoy, a man of unrelenting ego who has embraced his cause with the unbridled zealotry of the newly converted. The man has the money to make his desires reality and the personality to insist upon it. Witheringly rude to all he considers beneath him, mostly everyone, LaJoy is an extremist whose commitment veers off into deadly irrationality. Boyle playfully jabs at LaJoy and Heald perfectly captures the outraged exasperation as the animal rights activist sees his newly-sodded lawn done in by invasive raccoons. An equal opportunity jabber, Boyle also has a final zing for Park Service biologist Takasue as well.
Heald’s tempo and energy keep When the Killing’s Done constantly bounding forward. Boyle’s writing is so crisp and Heald’s delivery so exuberant that listening to the audiobook will be a temporary obsession for all who choose it. Carole Chouinard
“[Boyle’s] sleek prose yields a tale that is complex, thought-provoking, and darkly funny—everything we have come to expect from him.” (
“Boyle’s great subject is humankind’s blundering relationship with the rest of the living world…Incisive and caustically witty, Boyle is fluent in evolutionary biology and island biogeography, cognizant of the shared emotions of all sentient beings, in awe over nature’s crushing power, and, by turns, bemused and appalled by human perversity. Boyle brings all these powers and concerns to bear as he creates magnetic characters and high suspense, culminating in a piercing vision of our needy, confused, and destructive species thrashing about in the great web of life.” ( Booklist, Starred Review)
“Alma wears the white hat, LaJoy the black, but Boyle lets neither off the hook, showing how nature will always bite back and turn even the best human endeavor to water and dust. ... Boyle makes us laugh and wonder at his dazzling gifts but his comedy is a dark business." ( Los Angeles Times)
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