Welcome to my stop on the PANTHER GAP Book Tour!
Special thanks to the awesome folks at Flatiron Books for an arc and book tour invitation. I'll say upfront that this is my favorite book of 2023 thus far! You can read my full review, meet the author and learn more about this book below.
In this great big reading world, I consider myself lucky to come across a book that holds me captive from start to finish. One that I quickly become totally immersed in to a point of becoming one with the characters and story. These elusive books are rarer than hen's teeth and yet, I finished Panther Gap satisfied in the knowledge I held one in my hands. Panther Gap is a larger than life story that defies genre and boundaries. One laden with a complex, multifaceted plot line and atypical characters refusing to be locked in a box. One that delivers a stunning message to humans residing on planet earth. (Reviewer Sandra Hoover - Full review available below).
Available April 4, 2023!
Praise for PANTHER GAP:
"This impressive crime novel from Edgar winner McLaughlin (Bearskin) centers on the unexpected consequences of a bequest... Fans of Breaking Bad will be satisfied"
“I marvel at the research and sheer passion McLaughlin brought to bear on his latest novel, Panther Gap. It is chock-full of adventure, runs the gamut on the human experience, and bestows on the fortunate reader a treasure trove of marvelous insights about the animal world, and nature in general. And, it’s just one hell of a good yarn.”
“Panther Gap has rattlesnakes, shoot-outs, drug cartels, and international intrigue, as well as a riveting plot and characters who will stay with you long after you finish. On top of all that, there’s flat-out amazing prose and some of the best nature writing you’ll find anywhere. Panther Gap is a modern classic of the American West.”
—David Heska Wanbli Weiden, Anthony and Thriller Award-winning author of Winter Counts
"James McLaughlin has done it again, created a multi-layered thriller filled not only with relentless, heart-pounding suspense, but achingly beautiful writing about our deep, sometimes mystical relationship to nature and each other. You’ll definitely want to clear your calendar for this one."
—Angie Kim, Edgar Award-winning author of Miracle Creek
“With Panther Gap, McLaughlin has surpassed his award-winning debut and offered up a complex and brutal installment in the rural thriller wheelhouse. If picture perfect settings, plotting as skilled as McCarthy, and prose reminiscent of Larry Brown, is what you’re looking for, McLaughlin is your huckleberry. He’s one of the finest storytellers out there today.”
—Brian Panowich, author of Bull Mountain, Hard Cash Valley, and Nails
"An exciting, action-packed suspense novel that's also a book about many other things—about the natural world and its demise, about family fortunes and misfortunes, about the responsibilities we all have to one another, about crime and betrayal and greed and heroism. A remarkable book."
—Chris Pavone, bestselling author of Two Nights in Lisbon
“With nods to William Faulkner and Cormac McCarthy, Panther Gap is that rare combination of heart-pumping action and raw beauty, a vividly rendered story of inheritance—in all its forms—set in the stunning American West. The twists arrive like switchbacks on a mountain pass, and I found myself ripping through the final pages, beholding new revelations at every turn.”
—Adam White, author of The Midcoast
"Set in the Colorado mountains and the desolate scrub of the Mexican border, Panther Gap is steeped in the soul of the West. It’s also a high-stakes thriller that pits shadowy cartels and brutal prison gangs against a family that must depend on the complicated, fractured love that binds them to survive. The narrative tension is so gripping that I couldn't turn the pages quickly enough. An ambitious, exquisitely crafted novel."
—Heather Young, author of The Distant Dead
5 Star Review:
In this great big reading world, I consider myself lucky to come across a book that holds me captive from start to finish. One that I quickly become totally immersed in to a point of becoming one with the characters and story. These elusive books are rarer than hen's teeth and yet, I finished Panther Gap satisfied in the knowledge I held one in my hands. Panther Gap is a larger than life story that defies genre and boundaries. One laden with a complex, multifaceted plot line and atypical characters refusing to be locked in a box. One that delivers a stunning message to humans residing on planet earth.
Panther Gap is a mesmerizing story featuring siblings Bowman and Summer whose early years are spent running wild and free on their father's secluded, off-the-map ranch, hidden away from public eyes in a remote location rich in the history of the "Others" with ancient hidden subterranean passages forming a honeycomb in the Colorado canyon walls. Since losing his wife, their radical environmentalist father appears to be slipping away in fits of paranoia, experiencing psychotic episodes in losing battles with ghosts from his past while guarding dark secrets with his life. His irrational warnings of unknown danger frighten his children, but even so both siblings absorb his lessons in survival skills and love for nature like a sponge as they grow into misfit teenagers.
Bowman is especially psychic when it comes to the wildlife living in the natural habitat surrounding their refuge, often venturing off for extended periods of time to live among the animals as one. At times, he becomes dangerously close to losing touch with reality as he often transcends space in a hallucinatory state during which time the fragile lines between his human form and animal counterpart merge. Much of the story, especially anything pertaining to Bowman, is engulfed in a surreal, phantasmal state. During these times, Summer fears she may lose her brother to the same apparent madness that drives her father.
Bowman and Summer eventually become estranged when he leaves the security of the ranch to pursue the elusive panthers in Central America, with hopes of discovering his own true identity and place in the universe, and she is left to take over the running of the family ranch which is bordering on financial disaster. It's only in later years when their father's warnings prove to be sound and the much maligned inheritance from their late grandfather comes into play that they reunite to battle the crime and mafia drug forces threatening them and their way of life. The story that ensues is a dark, gritty, raw, sometimes heartbreaking thriller that this reader could not put down.
Panther Gap is a beautifully written, action packed thriller that swept me away. I love a story that integrates the surrounding environment into the plot line as an extra character as McLaughlin does in this one. Add a cast of nonconformist characters pushed over their physical and mental limits, and I'm one happy reader. Top that with a family drama - estranged, eccentric family members forced back together in the battle of their lives against bad guys coming at them from every direction in a multifaceted plot line, and I'm in book heaven. Panther Gap is rendered through the points of view of Bowman and Summer in riveting past/presence chapters. This allows readers to understand the radical upbringing that shaped them into the adults they've become in this place and time with an appreciation for the environment as well as the source of the deep sorrow they bear in the knowledge that many of the earth's resources and species are being depleted and destroyed by climate change in the name of progress. When it's all said and done, will they be able to say they made a difference? Can you?
Panther Gap has all the best of an old timey, shoot 'em up western - rugged setting, conflicted family, dirty money and a slew of bad guys gunning to claim a legacy. The action is swift, the characters damaged and the outcome in question until the final page. I was hopelessly and totally captured by the brilliance of McLaughlin's writing as he wove this tale of a family in crisis, of a man and woman searching for their identities as individuals - one that "fit" . . . or at the very least, one they can live with. I like that the ending is a bit open, not all wrapped up in a box with a bow. Yes, there's much needed closure and yet one is left to wonder, what if?
In reality, I haven't come close to conveying the magnitude and magnificence of Panther Gap in this review so I'll just say I highly recommend this entertaining book to fans of suspense thrillers, crime fiction and anyone who loves to get lost in a fantastic story that doesn't let you go until the end.
Siblings Bowman and Summer were raised by their father and two uncles on a remote Colorado ranch. They react differently to his radical teachings and the confusions of adolescence. As young adults, they become estranged but are brought back together in their thirties by the prospect of an illegal and potentially dangerous inheritance from their grandfather. They must ultimately reconcile with each other and their past in order to defeat ruthless criminal forces trying to extort the inheritance.
Set in the rugged American West and populated by drug cartels, shadowy domestic terrorists, and nefarious business interests, Panther Gap shows James McLaughlin’s talents on full display: gorgeous environmental writing, a white-knuckle thriller plot, and characters dealing with legacy, identity, and their own place in the world.
Meet the Author:
James A. McLaughlin is the acclaimed author of Bearskin, winner of the Edgar Award. A native of Virginia, he now lives in Utah, at the base of the Wasatch Mountains, with his wife.
James A. McLaughlin: For the past 15 years or so, I've worked as a lawyer for a land conservation business I founded with a good friend in Virginia. But my passion has always been writing. My earliest memories of literature are from my family's summer camp in the mountains—I'm eight years old, and a counselor is reading Flannery O'Connor or Mark Twain or J.R.R. Tolkien out loud as it's getting dark, with bullfrogs and crickets and whip-poor-wills as sonic backdrop. That kind of thing alters your DNA. I was deeply affected by story, maybe more so than other kids, and it seemed natural to want to make stories myself. So at a pretty early age, I decided I would be a writer, the kind who spends a lot of time outdoors, has amazing adventures, and writes books. My notion of what it is to be a writer has been evolving ever since!