Book Review: When the Killing's Done

Feb 27, 2012

T.C. Boyle has written adeptly on subjects ranging from academic politics, to illegal immigration, to the women who loved Frank Lloyd Wright. When the Killing’s Done, Boyle’s 14th novel, is set principally off the Santa Barbara coast on the sparsely inhabited Channel Islands.

Opening with a quote from Genesis in which man is instructed by God to have “dominion over the fish of the sea, over the fowl of the air, over every living thing that moveth upon the earth,” Boyle sets out to explore that very dominion we attempt to exert over the earth.

He takes us on a boat ride across the Pacific, where dolphins play and the green water slams into the rocky shores of this National Park on which scientists are at work eradicating various unnaturally introduced species in an effort to restore the indigenous flora and fauna. Meanwhile, an animal rights activist group is at work fighting against the killing of any creatures.

After a calamitous boating accident in which only one survivor washes ashore on one of the islands, Boyle combines high adventure with a morality tale that asks who really has the right to possess the land.

T.C. Boyle is so articulate and skillful at plotting that he has the reader turning the pages of the dictionary as fast as the pages of this entertaining and thoughtful book.