Bearskin: A Novel
On the run from drug cartels in Arizona, Rich Moore flees to an Appalachian forest preserve. Tracking wildlife and building cabins among the quiet trees suits him, but solitude doesn’t last forever. After finding several killed bears on the preserve, Rich becomes obsessed with catching the poachers but receives little help from locals or the law. Instead, he partners up with a scientist to put his risky plan in action. This beautifully written slow-burn is sure to stick with you (much like The River by Peter Heller, which is still on my mind).
WINNER OF THE 2019 EDGAR FOR BEST FIRST NOVEL
“Bearskin is visceral, raw, and compelling—filled with sights, smells, and sounds truly observed. It’s a powerful debut and an absolute showcase of exceptional prose. There are very few first novels when I feel compelled to circle brilliant passages, but James McLaughlin’s writing had me doing just that.” —C.J. Box, #1 NYT bestselling author of The Disappeared
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.