A moody, low-key thriller introducing Special Agent Reed Erickson of the US Fish and Wildlife Service, dispatched to backwoods Magnolia, Louisiana, to round up a deer-poaching ring. The poachers can kill, dress, and sell a hundred head a night. But what gets the attention of Reed's boas, Peter Ulysses (""P.U.""), is Marlis Pog's story that they've killed her husband Wayne, a conservation officer who may have caught them in the act. Reed goes undercover as affectless Magis's lover, facing down the good old boys at the Blue Moon tavern and sharing her bed to no great effect as he senses his 17-year marriage going down the tubes back home in Washington and feels equally alienated from Marlis's two children and his own two. After trying to buddy up to suspected ringleader Doyle Monroe by insinuating himself into an alligator hunt with him, and after making a friend of black deputy Hank Jackson (whose wife Sheila was once raped by Marlis's father) and enemies of a dozen others, including contact supervisor Gerald Doucet, Reed brings in humane, self-justifying Doyle and his subhuman buddies--but without evidence of murder, the deer killers walk the streets on bail as Doucet goes after Reed's job and Magis goes after the man who killed her husband. Technically a thriller, but despite some good hunting scenes, mainly a stately, bittersweet tour of the bayous and their divided heroes reminiscent of James Lee Burke's stories about Dave Robicheaux. First of a projected series.