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 Bloodless stereotypes, a blurred focus, and implausible coincidences blight the promise of this preachy eco-thriller from the author of White Harvest (1994), etc. Here, homicidal reactionaries use an imposing Siberian tiger and her three cute cubs in a plot to overthrow post-Communist Russia's democratically elected government. Charbonneau sets the pot to boiling in the subarctic forests where coastal Russia shares a frontier with China and North Korea. Here in the taiga, American biologist Chris Harmon (a specialist in big cats who's engaged in a research project sanctioned by Moscow) shoots some incriminating film as he and a local game warden attempt to foil what appears to be a routine incursion by poachers into a restricted sector of the nature preserve they patrol. Once Harmon gets to Vladivostok, where his chums at the Global Wildlife Federation (GWF) office make an international incident of dramatic pictures of the tiger's wounding, the body count starts rising all over the port city. It develops that the callow young scientist's film has put some beastly riflemen as well as innocent felines in the frame. This discovery inconveniences a vaultingly ambitious, ultranationalist pol named Boris Provalev, who, as part of his plan to stage a media-abetted coup, has engineered logging contracts that could destroy habitat needed by the already endangered species. Accordingly, Provalev expands the brief of an ex-KGB assassin known as The Collector. Meanwhile, Lina Mashikova, a lissome GRU agent, latches onto Harmon, who believes she's a freelance journalist. When he and his fellow GWF travelers are not delivering extemporaneous sermonettes on humankind's environmental responsibilities, they lobby venal apparatchiks and world opinion in the cause of Siberian tigers. At the ho-hum close, however, it is Mashikova, her Red Army masters, and the militia that pull everyone's chestnuts from the fire. For all the exotic locales and creatures: really just another cat-and-mouse exercise.

Pub Date: April 20th, 1995
ISBN: 1-55611-422-2
Page count: 320pp
Publisher: Donald Fine
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 15th, 1995


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