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ARCHANGEL by Paul Watkins

ARCHANGEL

By Paul Watkins

Pub Date: Jan. 1st, 1996
ISBN: 0-679-44391-6
Publisher: Random House

 Having established an impressive track record of six acclaimed books by the ripe age of 31 (Stand Before Your God, 1994, etc.), Watkins stumbles a bit here, losing his way in Maine's northern woods while on the trail of an eco-activista young radical who takes on a logging-company owner determined to clear-cut old-growth wilderness. Logger Mackenzie has never been bested in his business, and knows no limits as to what he'll do to survive--not even when it comes to sawing off his own leg to save himself in a logging accident. He owns the town of Abenaki Junction, though his grip is slipping with local resentment over his cutting down the Algonquin Wilderness. When one of his loggers dies using defective company equipment, Mackenzie fakes a tree-spiking to deflect the blame, only to have the ensuing manhunt result in the murder of his unacknowledged illegitimate son. Then Gabriel arrives, fresh from spiking trees in the West. An ex-fighter pilot turned eco- terrorist, Gabriel grew up in Abenaki Junctionuntil his father was fired for standing up to Mackenzie and the family moved away. Fortunately, no one recognizes him now, so he takes a railroad job and sets to work. His spikes soon put the saws in Mackenzie's mill out of action, prompting the owner to turn to a Yale-classmate- turned-covert-ops-specialist for help. A hit man arrives to take Gabriel out, but when matters get out of hand and tabloid TV gets wind of the story, Mackenzie decides to reform . . . but it's already too late to avoid the grisly melee that ensues. With its undeniable power of language and sharply etched imagery, this tale makes a mighty crash, but being short of either Carolyn Chute's understanding of upcountry Maine folk or Edward Abbey's enthusiasm for the good fight, it falls hollow at the core.