When the Killing's Done by T.C. Boyle
My rating: 3 of 5 stars
I listened to the audio version of T.C. Boyle's When the Killing's Done, read by Anthony Heald. I'm glad I did, because I might not have finished reading it.
Boyle's unusual subject of killing invasive animals in the Channel Islands off the coast of California brings to light the controversy that rocked California years ago. A park service biologist pits herself against members of PETA and a fictitious group of animal rights advocates who want to stop the slaughter of feral pigs and rats. Straightforward enough, except the narrative ranges across three generations, multiple downings and boat sinkings and too many characters whose names begin with the same letter. I found it hard to keep up with Alma, Anise, Anabelle and others whose names began with A.
Not only does the narrative range back and forward in time, it is presented from the point of view of several characters. I'm sure seeing the character's name on the page would have helped. All the characters are brought together through the generations by the end of the book, which in this reader's mind was forced.
Head-hopping, i.e., written from differing points of view, often within the same paragraph, and characters with similar sounding names make the reader work hard to stay with the book to the end.
So, why the three stars? Because the reader was excellent. Alma, the biologist and protagonist, has fairly a straight-line thought process, although when she slips into confusion, and when Heald uses his pacing to portray that confusion, the book surges. Dave LaJoy, the antagonist, is full of anger, which might have become tedious on the printed page. Again, Heald saves the day with his rush of anger and near breathless delivery.
Would I recommend reading it? Only if you like convoluted sentences and tortured thoughts. Would I recommend it as an audio book? Definitely. Heald made all the difference in whether I cared for the characters or not.