Bloomsbury, £18.99, 369pp. £17.09 from the Independent Bookshop: 08430 600 030

When The Killing's Done, By TC Boyle

For his 13th novel, the American author T Coraghessan Boyle turns a beady eye onto the type of eco-drama that, previously, only Carl Hiaasen has managed to bring off to general satisfaction. Hiaasen, however consistently brilliant, now has a serious rival. Having already written both magisterially and waspishly about the Kellogg family, Frank Lloyd Wright, Alfred Kinsey, Mexican immigration and a hippie colony on its last legs, Boyle now proves he is equally at home in the troubled waters of animal rights and conservation imperatives.

At bay here are some human-introduced black rats on the tiny island of Anacapa off the coast of California. They are making life difficult for the rare, indigenous flora and fauna. Dr Alma Takesue of the National Park Service is determined to eradicate them before they destroy what is still left. Dave LaJoy, the wealthy middle-aged founder of the pressure group FPA (For the Protection of Animals) and a man in sore need of a course in anger management, is equally set on stopping her every move.

A rich, meaty story follows. Detailed descriptions of rat behavior, the ways of feral pigs and the depredations of the brown snake rub shoulders with hosts of characters, none of whom fall into easy stereotypes. Both sides of the main argument are given a fair hearing. Dr Takesue comes to realise that excessive veneration of the natural order sometimes co-exists with a chilly attitude towards men and women, while LaJoy finally sees his zeal prove counter-productive. Both end up looking small compared to the animals they are so engaged with. They simply get on with eating, sleeping and copulating while all around them over-concerned humans are worrying themselves into new pitches of unhappiness.

Boyle is so excessively fluent that he sometimes gives the impression of not knowing when to stop. Enter a minor character, and readers may soon know more about them than they might need. When anyone takes a trip in a yacht, await a flood of circumstantial detail as a storm whips up and the engine cuts out. A text that jumps backwards and forwards in time also risks leaving some readers as occasionally stranded as are most of the characters in their own lives.

But these are minor cavils. In an age when other writers are in retreat from any appearance of being fully in control of what is happening, Boyle remains defiantly at the authorial helm, knowing exactly where he is going and what his characters are thinking and feeling. His dialogue crackles and his eye is unforgiving when it comes to picking out less admirable aspects of modern American life. Conservation issues in real life can at times seem more worthy than gripping. In Boyle's hands, they erupt off the page and won't lie down until the end of a long novel that is as entertaining as it is provocative.

PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment

ebooksNow available in paperback
Arts and Entertainment

ebooks
Arts and Entertainment
Mark, Katie and Sanjay in The Apprentice boardroom
TV
Arts and Entertainment

Film The critics but sneer but these unfashionable festive films are our favourites

Arts and Entertainment
Frances O'Connor and James Nesbitt in 'The Missing'

TV We're so close to knowing what happened to Oliver Hughes, but a last-minute bluff crushes expectations

Arts and Entertainment
Joey Essex will be hitting the slopes for series two of The Jump

TV

Who is taking the plunge?
Arts and Entertainment
Katy Perry as an Ancient Egyptian princess in her latest music video for 'Dark Horse'

music
Arts and Entertainment
Dame Judi Dench, as M in Skyfall

film
Arts and Entertainment
Morrissey, 1988

TV
Arts and Entertainment
William Pooley from Suffolk is flying out to Free Town, Sierra Leone, to continue working in health centres to fight Ebola after surviving the disease himself

music
Arts and Entertainment
The Newsroom creator Aaron Sorkin

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Matt Berry (centre), the star of Channel 4 sitcom 'Toast of London'

TVA disappointingly dull denouement
Arts and Entertainment
Tales from the cryptanalyst: Benedict Cumberbatch in 'The Imitation Game'

film
Arts and Entertainment
Pixie Lott has been voted off Strictly Come Dancing 2014

Strictly
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating
    and  

    By clicking 'Search' you
    are agreeing to our
    Terms of Use.

    Jeb Bush vs Hillary Clinton: The power dynamics of the two first families

    Jeb Bush vs Hillary Clinton

    Karen Tumulty explores the power dynamics of the two first families
    Stockholm is rivalling Silicon Valley with a hotbed of technology start-ups

    Stockholm is rivalling Silicon Valley

    The Swedish capital is home to two of the most popular video games in the world, as well as thousands of technology start-ups worth hundreds of millions of pounds – and it's all happened since 2009
    Did Japanese workers really get their symbols mixed up and display Santa on a crucifix?

    Crucified Santa: Urban myth refuses to die

    The story goes that Japanese store workers created a life-size effigy of a smiling "Father Kurisumasu" attached to a facsimile of Our Lord's final instrument of torture
    Jennifer Saunders and Kate Moss join David Walliams on set for TV adaptation of The Boy in the Dress

    The Boy in the Dress: On set with the stars

    Walliams' story about a boy who goes to school in a dress will be shown this Christmas
    La Famille Bélier is being touted as this year's Amelie - so why are many in the deaf community outraged by it?

    Deaf community outraged by La Famille Bélier

    The new film tells the story of a deaf-mute farming family and is being touted as this year's Amelie
    10 best high-end laptops

    10 best high-end laptops

    From lightweight and zippy devices to gaming beasts, we test the latest in top-spec portable computers
    Michael Carberry: ‘After such a tough time, I’m not sure I will stay in the game’

    Michael Carberry: ‘After such a tough time, I’m not sure I will stay in the game’

    The batsman has grown disillusioned after England’s Ashes debacle and allegations linking him to the Pietersen affair
    Susie Wolff: A driving force in battle for equality behind the wheel

    Susie Wolff: A driving force in battle for equality behind the wheel

    The Williams driver has had plenty of doubters, but hopes she will be judged by her ability in the cockpit
    Adam Gemili interview: 'No abs Adam' plans to muscle in on Usain Bolt's turf

    'No abs Adam' plans to muscle in on Usain Bolt's turf

    After a year touched by tragedy, Adam Gemili wants to become the sixth Briton to run a sub-10sec 100m
    Calls for a military mental health 'quality mark'

    Homeless Veterans campaign

    Expert calls for military mental health 'quality mark'
    Racton Man: Analysis shows famous skeleton was a 6ft Bronze Age superman

    Meet Racton Man

    Analysis shows famous skeleton was a 6ft Bronze Age superman
    Garden Bridge: St Paul’s adds to £175m project’s troubled waters

    Garden Bridge

    St Paul’s adds to £175m project’s troubled waters
    Stuff your own Christmas mouse ornament: An evening class in taxidermy with a festive feel

    Stuff your own Christmas mouse ornament

    An evening class in taxidermy with a festive feel
    Joint Enterprise: The legal doctrine which critics say has caused hundreds of miscarriages of justice

    Joint Enterprise

    The legal doctrine which critics say has caused hundreds of miscarriages of justice
    Freud and Eros: Love, Lust and Longing at the Freud Museum: Objects of Desire

    Freud and Eros

    Love, Lust and Longing at the Freud Museum