Not your usual hero, the weasel--but Lloyd's Kine, who weasels around the coastal flats of Kent and Sussex (richly sensual, convincing environs), is a cut above those stodgy rabbits of Watership Down: he's an Ali sort whose sting is much more potent than a bee's. (""The rat is smart but Kine is smarter. The rat is large but Kine is swifter. Come weasel dodger and dance the dance of death."") Now, however, a real menace has come to the land--Gru, a killer matriarch-mink. All the animals sense it, including the human Poacher, an old and respected enemy, ill and dying. And Gru, holed up in the dike pump, issues her death edict: ""Here shall be my stronghold. . . and all who dwell here shall dread the plunderers,"" Among the potential plunderees: Watchman, the old rook, whose paternal duties are wearing him down; the tiny, short-lived shrew Sprat, who makes dreary pronouncements about the ""end"" being near; and the giant frog Bunda, who booms out frog history in a song which ""rang with massacres."" But it is the weasels who gather together to take on monster Gru--led by Kine, grieving over the mink-related deaths of she-weasel Kia and the kits. There'll be two mighty campaigns during which the weasels will cope with trampling ewes, tumultuous water, and battle-horror; the old Poacher inadvertently, then deliberately saves Kine's life; Kine's sire One Eye pontificates while awaiting battle reports. And finally the old Poacher will die in the woods--viewed with both distaste and respect by the small predators, who ""sniffed and scuffled like dwarfs at a giant's wake. . . ""Alive with fizzing ponds, with the drumming, churr, and winnowing of creatures: better than most such items--but still for fauna-philes only.