The fact that Vladimir Markov was killed and eaten by a tiger is horrifying enough. But even more chilling is that the tiger singled out Markov for death, stalked him, and waited patiently at Markov’s house until his victim appeared. This was no random case of man-eating—it was first-degree murder.
Around this sensational 1997 attack, John Vaillant weaves a complex narrative about people and tigers in the Primorye region of far eastern Siberia. In this remote place, covered in deep coniferous forest known as taiga, life is harsh for man and beast. The people eke out marginal existences in the crumbling ruins of Soviet-era towns or in crude cabins in the forest. Also struggling to survive in this environment are several hundred Amur (Siberian) tigers, the last remnant of a tribe of huge cats who once roamed eastern Russia, China and North Korea.
By the end of the book, you will begin to understand why the tiger killed Markoff. But the drama of the hunt for the tiger remains offstage much of time, as the author fills in the backstory—the history and geography of Primorye, facts and legends about the iconic Amur tiger, and the personal lives of the central characters. The hero of the story is Yuri Trush, a tough ex-Army man whose “Inspection Tiger” team is called in to investigate Markov’s death. A law-enforcement officer whose job is to protect tigers from poachers, Trush must now try to destroy one of these animals he so admires. The tale is elegantly told, with empathy for all—especially the tiger.
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