When the Killings Done by T.C. Boyle (Bloomsbury,Rs 599) is a jittery,prolix eco-drama describing the fight between ecologists looking to eliminate invasive species from the island of Ancapa off the Californian coast,and the fractious pack of animal-rights activists determined to thwart their efforts. On one side,theres Alma Boyd Takesue,National Park Services biologist,whos helming the effort to kill the rats and feral pigs placidly multiplying and taking over what was originally the habitat of dwarf foxes and bald eagles. On the other hand is her dreadlocked,deliriously bad-tempered arch-nemesis: middle-aged,violent-tempered animal lover Dave LaJoy,sprinkling vitamin K in her wake to inoculate the rampaging rats against poison,and cutting holes in fences to release feral pigs. Beginning with a vividly dramatic shipwreck,which leaves Alma suspended in all that transient medium where the dolphins grinned and the flying fish flew,from which,anytime,a shark might rise up in a blanket of foam,the novel relates the equally tenacious survival of other creatures,and the morally ambiguous choices that unfettered catastrophic human interference leaves us with. Boyle makes sure we dont forget that the denouement of this bleakly pessimistic,meticulously researched novel continues to unravel well after the last page is turned.
After the last page of Those in Peril by Wilbur Smith (Pan Macmillan,Rs 325) is turned,its hard to tell what remains with the reader distaste or disgust. One of those tackily misogynistic books youre embarrassed to find lurking in elderly uncles shelves,its ostensibly the tale of an oil baroness yacht getting hijacked by Somali pirates in the Indian Ocean with her daughter on it who she begs an ex-SAS operative to rescue. But the tangled plot is really an excuse to have the Somali pirates tear the clothes off various bound and captive women every couple of pages,so their sleekly muscled bodies might be subject to the depredations of their captors who roar a selection of epithets before scurrying off for their prayers.
A no-less dire fate awaits many of the women who make an appearance in The Dead Tracks by Tim Weaver (Penguin,Rs 299),in which missing persons investigator David Raker goes on the increasingly bloody trail of a missing schoolgirl,17-year-old Megan Carver. Megans no teen runaway,though,as Raker realises,when he begins to find a number of links between her disappearance and a serial killer with a taste for macabre experiments,and connections in the Russian mafia. Theres much for crime aficionados to relish here,from Weavers gift for lurching plot twists,to his facility with bone-crunching,flesh-melting,skin-slicing descriptions of gratuitous violence.