I have never read the book that made Nicolas Evans famous, The Horse Whisperer, so was quite keen to find out what all the fuss was about.
The book opens with a great scene: an alpha wolf on the hunt. The wolf is hungry and ventures on to a ranch in Montana. Little can the wolf know it chose the wrong ranch, and the ensuing drama sets man against wolf and environmentalists against ranchers. That sets the scene for a conflict that gets uglier and uglier.
What I liked a lot about the book were the scenes set in nature, with both man and animal. There is one scene in the middle where a pack confronts an old moose, which scene must surely go down as a classic of writing about nature. I couldn’t put the book down at times like those.
What detracted from the book was the soap-opera background of the various small-town loves, likes, hatreds and other affairs. A lot of these added very little to the plot, and some made caricatures of otherwise interesting characters.
But what really cost the book a star or two was the ending. It’s not so much a case of justice being done or not, but that the main bad guy, although he gets his comeuppance, appears unchanged by it. He’s not contrite because his own attitudes were wrong; he’s contrite because he got caught.
I did learn a lot from this book, and Montana comes across as a character in its own right. But a less dramatic but more meaningful ending would have made an okay book good, and throwing away the small-town stuff would have made a good book great.