The Tiger: A True Story of Vengeance and Survival
By John Vaillant
(Vintage, Paperback, 9780307389046, May 2011, 352pp.)
The Short of It:
A true account of a tiger with a grudge.
The Rest of It:
In December of 1997, Yuri Trush, the head of a tiger preservation team is called to the Boreal Forest to find…and kill a tiger. The tiger in question killed famed hunter Vladimir Markov and the remains left behind, indicate one of the most brutal killings ever documented. As his team hunts the killer, it becomes obvious that the tiger had a motive for killing Markov and that it wasn’t the typical “caught by surprise” killing that he first suspected.
This is a fascinating account of a tiger with a motive. To think that a tiger could remember a slight from days before and then seek out and kill the person who slighted him is both impressive and scary. Cats in general can hold a grudge and apparently big cats are no different. Vaillant, a journalist by trade does a marvelous job of creating suspense where there is little to work with. The pacing is very much like Moby Dick in that the “hunt” is supremely fascinating but the facts that fill the spaces in between? Not so much. This meant that I alternated between wonder and boredom more times than I could count and after 300 pages of it, I grew a bit tired of the pattern.
However, Vaillant does an excellent job of getting into the tiger’s head and the irony of a tiger preservationist hunting a tiger was enough to hold my interest. Although it dragged a bit on paper, the audio version was more exciting and if the movie ever moves out of the development stage, I think it will make a riveting film. Rumor has it that Brad Pitt is attached to the movie so that might entice moviegoers to see it.
Overall, non-fiction lovers will eat this one up and although the slow parts stood out for me, I couldn’t wait to get back to the tiger and that’s saying something.
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