An unnamed man has been sent to retrieve the DNA of the last Tasmanian tiger, an animal previously believed to be extinct. On his solitary trips into the wilderness, his remarkable survival skills of every kind are put to the test.
For years after its 'official' extinction in the 1930s, reports of the Tasmanian Tiger, or Thylacine, were made, and Leigh's debut novel tells of a recent hunt for the elusive tiger on Tasmania. Leigh is tactful but pointed about Tasmania's human inhabitants, who are cautious creatures fiercely protective of their frontier lifestyles. The clammy climate and the suffocating nature of the surrounding countryside are well observed, as are the zoological references. Leigh's unsavoury hunter is not a conservationist, though, he's a professional on a spurious mission who has identified the Thylacine as a source of genetical fortune. He is a loner, a man whose objective is to harmonize with each environment he stalks, to blend perfectly with nature so that he is assured success as a superior predator. To do this he covers himself with Wallaby excrement, crawls on all fours and stoically enlivens his senses. While on his mission, the hunter lodges with a grief-ridden family of outcasts whose father has mysteriously vanished after sighting the Thylacine. The hunter succumbs more than he'd like to the family's scant charms and when tragedy strikes has to further purge his psyche to focus upon his elusive quarry. There is something tantalizing at large here as well as the mythical beast in this soul-stalking story about a group of doomed creatures whose unfortunate extinction is never really in doubt. Reviewed by Chris Packham, naturalist and broadcaster, who is the author of Wild Shots. (Kirkus UK)