A grizzled mountaineer and his friends take extreme measures to prevent a shady road-building project.
While enjoying a meal at his favorite diner, 70-year-old mountaineer, conservationist and scholar Jake McCann is approached by Janis Parker, a young activist with a Tahoe-based environmental group. Janis wants to talk about some rumors that have been circulating about plans for a new road that will cut through—and damage—Jake’s beloved Sierra Nevada wilderness. At first Jake, who is no stranger to being on the long-odds side of various ecological conflicts through the years, dismisses the rumors, but after a chance encounter with a couple of surveyors in the mountains, he realizes that something is going on. With the help of Janis, Jake’s Paiute friend, Storm Eagle, and a few other local activists, Jake, who is more like a force of nature than an elderly man, goes to great lengths to stop construction and protect the pristine wilderness. But powerful forces are behind the project, which may involve more than just a road, and soon people standing in the way of “progress” are dying. Written in vibrant prose and set largely in the vividly evoked beauty of the rugged Sierra Nevada mountains, Cosgrove’s novel presents tense action sequences and tender evocations of the natural world with equal aplomb, and often in rapid succession. While the evil developers and crooked politicians are essentially straight out of central casting, the environmentalists here are not stereotypical tree-hugging intellectual weaklings. Jake and Storm Eagle are rough men ready and able to use violence—and occasionally to kill—in order to protect the environment they love. This may not sit well with all readers, who may see such violence as extreme, but the characters themselves are well-wrought. Like its protagonist, the book is at its best in the untamed woods and mountains of the High Sierra, a setting that springs to life here.
A tense, sometimes violent, but satisfying ecological thriller.