The Tiger: A True Story of Vengeance and Survival - John Vaillant
John Vaillant’s portrait of a savage but noble beast, THE TIGER (Knopf, $26.95), which I started casually browsing, turned out to be one of my favorites of the year. Part of this tale of Amur tigers, of the hunter and the hunted, is a fascinating evocation of a remote eastern region of Russia, Primorye, and its post-perestroika efforts to survive a collapsed economy. Underpinning the worlds of both man and beast are the necessities for survival, including a near-desperate search for food. When a poacher is savagely killed by a tiger, wildlife wardens hypothesize that the tiger took calculated vengeance against the hunter for the theft of his, the tiger’s, fresh kill. Although the wardens often ignored poachers as hard-pressed scavengers, a 500-pound tiger could not forgive such a violation of jungle law. In short, the offended tiger stalked and attacked the poacher; as an added insult, he ate him. This is a gripping story that is hard to put down.