Bengal tiger goes AWOL from an overturned circus truck and takes up a biped-only protein diet. Strictly from the rope-a-dope school of mystery thriller: the reader sees all the punches coming.
Effectively if not so subtly, first-novelist Warner, retired journalist, invokes Kipling through a reverent hunter vs. man-eater prologue that’s set in India. Then the reader is dumped into modern-day rural Georgia as the devil-in-giant-cat-drag chews its way through mountainous scenery. The prologue may have been replaced abruptly by the red Georgia clay, but the classic types—Great White Hunter, Jungle Boy, and Man-Eating Tiger—are transported from the past virtually intact, two-dimensional and bloodless. Warner hurriedly covers all the events that were foreshadowed in the prologue. The only stranger to those familiar with the genre is a nicely portrayed rural sheriff, Grady Brickhouse, who’s not a cartoonish country galoot but a sensitive modern gentleman doing his best to deal with a dangerous carnivore and a drooling press corps. Sheriff aside, the rest of the cast is drawn in dotted-line primary colors. Beyond vague descriptions of the “man eater’s” gory dining habits and some references to sexual activity by secondary characters, there’s little of violence or prurience here, a curious absence that tends to give the whole a YA atmosphere. The only lust is the insatiable feline’s. And, remarkably soon, even the primal, nightmarish terror of humans being stalked and eaten by a huge, reddish cat with burning yellow eyes becomes routine.
Promising idea, but, told through a yawn, without the tension the genre demands.