Rated Reads

The Tiger: A True Story of Vengeance and Survival

by John Vaillant

Rated: High

The far-flung forests of Primorye (officially known as Primorsky Krai) have been home to the Amur Tiger (a.k.a. Siberian Tiger) since the dawn of modern man. Although a part of Russia, the Chinese border is actually within the forested region, and local crossing, trade and poaching are frequent. Less frequently, a tiger will actually attack a human. In general, however, the understanding of the local populace is that if a tiger attacks you, you had it coming. You either stole part of its kill, invaded its territory at the wrong time or, worst of all, you poached a relative.

In 1997, a local hunter was found dead, but in this case, the evidence pointed to a very specific, very personal tracking down and killing of the man. On the surface, the assumption was that the victim was just another poacher, so, oh well, he should have known better. Within days, however, other strange sightings and bizarre behaviors were noted, and it became clear that this was no ordinary tiger.

Enter Yuri Trush, a former hunter/tracker (with a military background) who now is the region’s finest and most dedicated forest ranger.  He is passionate about protecting the land, the ecosystem and, especially, the dwindling tiger population. He has personally caught and prosecuted a number of local inhabitants for poaching and other offenses. He is well known and respected but not always liked. He gets the order to find and destroy the tiger.

What follows is an account of the contest between man and animal, wherein both are already familiar with each other. We learn about the history of the entire area, efforts over the decades to care for and monitor the natural landscape and the personal histories of all the players. The drama unfolds against the backdrop of a freezing winter tiger hunt, led by a man committed to his job, but in conflict with his beliefs. This is some riveting nonfiction, and the final standoff between prey and predator is a completely mind-boggling narrative.

Rating: High. A total of eight f-words (all quotes from interviews), with another eight mild to moderate terms dispersed throughout the text. Graphic descriptions are well written, using proper anatomical terms, and are clear without being overtly gory.

— Reviewed by Craig Smith

Craig Smith is chief medical officer of Tacoma Cat Hospital. In addition to providing book reviews on Rated Reads, he podcasts about feline health issues through iTunes and www.tacomacat.com.

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  • The Tiger: A True Story of Vengeance and Survival
  • by John Vaillant
  • Rated: High
  • Genre: Nonfiction
  • Reviewer: