When the Killing’s Done

When the Killing's DoneWhen the Killing’s Done by T.C. Boyle

Review by Gretchen Chamberlin

Serendipitously perfect for summer, the locale of T. C. Boyle’s book is the Channel Islands off the coast of California–a very real place that has been the site of countless assaults over time on the islands’ unique animal and plant populations. Ranching, farming, rogue species hitching rides on seafaring ships, which landed on the islands, all wreaked havoc on  the ecology of these isolated bits of land. In 1980, the islands became a national park. These are the facts.
Boyle’s contemporary novel pits Dave LaJoy, a fiery and fanatical animal rights champion against the cool minded academic, Alma Takesue, PhD, a National Park Service spokesperson and protector of the islands’ indigenous species. Her agenda includes killing the invasive species, including rats and feral pigs, which are threatening the ecosystem. And, this is where the fun begins. 
Those who have read T. C. Boyle’s other books will now be ready to fasten their seat belts and prepare for a wild ride replete with over the top plotlines and an escalating sense of suspense. It’s a ripping good story, very beautifully written, and a provocative examination of how we come to value, set priorities and rationalize our regard for other living things. Boyle has woven together a story with a complex history and portrayed two warring characters, who ironically might both have been on the same side but neither of whom fully understands or examines the dimensions of their opposing positions. This is a very timely issue treated by a consummate storyteller.
No spoilers, but the crowning and most outsized scheme of LaJoy culminates on the very last page of this book and was immensely satisfying to this reader! When the Killing’s Done is not a perfect book and some will find it too long but I heartily recommend that you give it a try. Another title by Boyle which is shorter and a real page turner is his Tortilla Curtain, which juxtaposes and then brings into direct and explosive contact, the lives of a sushi eating LA couple living in a gated community with a family of illegal Mexican immigrants. You will not be able to put this book down!

This review was originally published as part of TPL’s Novel Destinations.

Check availability on When the Killing’s Done

Check availability on The Tortilla Curtain

About the reviewer: Formerly assistant director of Tredyffrin Public Library, Gretchen enjoys semi-retirement reading, taking drawing classes and enjoying her granddaughter (soon to be grandchildren!)