The latest challenge for California Fish & Game Warden John Marquez is a group of poachers who kill sturgeon for caviar and aren’t too solicitous about higher species either.
Fish & Game’s Special Operations Unit is on the ropes. Tax-averse California citizens have cut their budget repeatedly, slashing the number of agents from ten to five to three, even though the bad guys are just as active and inventive as ever. Marquez (Night Game, 2004, etc.) and his wardens hope to turn sturgeon poacher Abe Raburn against former KGB agent Nikolai Ludovna, who came to the U.S. to move real estate and black-market caviar. But Raburn is so terrified of Ludovna that he’s not much help. Russian-born field guide Anna Burdovsky has agreed to do some snooping on Marquez’s behalf. When she disappears from a rendezvous with Don August, whose specialty-food stores may be selling illegal caviar, signs point to foul play. Marquez’s boss is getting put out to pasture, and his home life doesn’t look so great either: He and his wife Katherine are too obsessed with their jobs to make much of a home for Katherine’s daughter Maria, who’s visiting East Coast colleges without the slightest intention of attending any of them. Although the tale and its people may all seem familiar, Russell brings some formidable skills to bear: an exquisite eye for a hundred shades of gray among the poachers, traffickers, buyers and informants along the food chain, and a passion for every corner of the wilderness they’re bent on exploiting into oblivion. And not just them, but the populace at large. As Marquez reflects: “The debate wasn’t so much about how to live in balance with nature, but whether it was worth the effort.”
Russell tackles both action sequences and intractable moral problems with prose as sharp and efficient as a filleting knife.