In this debut thriller, a hiker who discovers caged endangered animals becomes trapped himself.
Adirondack backpacker Basil “Baz” Billings is trespassing when he enters a cave and climbs down into a cavern lit by electric lights. From the cavern, he descends further to a series of rooms containing a breeding operation for endangered animals. Baz, who realizes the setup isn’t legit, emerges from the cave to find two men greeting him with shotguns. The pair walk Baz to a luxurious home nearby and throw him in a cage until the “master of the house,” Don Emile, returns. When he does, he suggests Baz join his crew and help breed endangered animals to transport to his private island—“his own personal Madagascar.” Baz rejects the offer. It’s back to the cage for him. He escapes his cell, but before leaving the house, he spies a computer screen displaying detailed information about him and his girlfriend, Jules. He finds additional files he thinks are suspicious before Emile’s toadies catch him. It’s round three in the cage (why don’t they just shoot him?). Baz’s escape attempts are heart-pounding. Hunted through the forest by former captors, the chase ends dramatically, and efforts to involve the cops prove futile. When the FBI gets involved, it appears that the documents on Emile’s computer are linked to several recent suspicious deaths. In retaliation for involving the FBI, Emile’s posse tries to kill Baz and Jules. And it won’t be the last time Baz is in the cross hairs. Threading through the action are soul-lifting descriptions of nature, such as the lusty scents of flowers and the beauty of glossy capped reishi and colorful turkey tail mushrooms. The relationship between Jules and Baz and their individual back stories are highlights, but caging Baz repeatedly grows tiresome, and the elaborateness of Emile’s plans strain credulity.
A gripping but convoluted The Most Dangerous Game meets The Island of Doctor Moreau.