Panther Gap: Book summary and reviews of Panther Gap by James A. McLaughlin

Panther Gap

A Novel

by James A. McLaughlin

Panther Gap by James A. McLaughlin X
Panther Gap by James A. McLaughlin
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  • Publishes
    Apr 4, 2023
    368 pages
    Genre: Thrillers

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About this book

Book Summary

The thrilling follow-up to the Edgar Award–winning Bearskin, about two siblings on the verge of inheriting millions but who discover dark secrets in their family's past.

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.

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Media Reviews

"[An] impressive crime novel....Fans of Breaking Bad will be satisfied." —Publishers Weekly

"McLaughlin's writing is absolutely electric." —CrimeReads

"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

This information about Panther Gap was first featured in "The BookBrowse Review" - BookBrowse's membership magazine, and in our weekly "Publishing This Week" newsletter. Publication information is for the USA, and (unless stated otherwise) represents the first print edition. The reviews are necessarily limited to those that were available to us ahead of publication. If you are the publisher or author and feel that they do not properly reflect the range of media opinion now available, send us a message with the mainstream reviews that you would like to see added.

Any "Author Information" displayed below reflects the author's biography at the time this particular book was published.

Reader Reviews

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Linda L. (Pickerington, OH)

Suspenseful page-turner
Panther Gap is a riveting, dramatic story, set in the breath-taking mountains of Colorado. The author reveals a deep knowledge of the flora, fauna, and geological features of the area. It's an intelligent, challenging read that will surprise you at every twist of the plot. I could not put it down. Chronological flash backs add to the understanding of the characters, their motivations, their family history, loyalties, and conflicting emotions. Prepare for imperfect characters, an ecological bent, violence, and more than a touch of mysticism. The back cover notes that this is a follow-up to McLaughlin's Bearskin. Rice and Apryle, from Bearskin, appear in the second half of the book, but one does not have to have read Bearskin to enjoy Panther Gap. I highly recommend this book. Fans of Richard Powers and Peter Heller would enjoy this gritty, suspense novel.

Amy E. (Delaware, OH)

The legacies of the Ancestors, conspiracy theories, drug cartels, environmental concerns, hidden sums of money, prison gangs, spiritual visions and more contribute to a real thriller.

McLaughlin is a wonderful storyteller with excellent use of language to develop his settings and characters. His balance between the past and the present and the spiritual and the practical draws the reader in to explore some very interesting ideas.
I loved the book!

Patricia G. (Washington, DC)

A gripping story by a talented author
I generally try not to judge a book by how quickly it draws me in—some books just build slowly—but within the first 20 pages of Panther Gap I knew I would have a hard time putting this down. Full disclaimer: this is not my normal genre of reading, but I sincerely hope that James McLaughlin is working on another book.

Panther Gap revolves around the lives of siblings Bowman and Summer, who, for reasons that unspool throughout the story, were raised by their father and two uncles on an isolated property in Colorado. McLaughlin moves back and forth in time to explain how and why each of them react to the immediate threat to their existence: an unknown and unexplained inheritance from their grandfather. Bowman is the more mystical of the siblings, able to commune with animals and overwhelmed by the modern world outside of their ranch. Summer is the more practical, but needs her brother to keep the ranch and themselves safe. At one point a seemingly random passerby, Sam, is thrown into the mix, but McLaughlin blends him into the story well.

The book is a skillful blend of mysticism, mystery, international drug dealing, family and survivalism, and McLaughlin pulls it all together so well, with compelling characters, that it's hard to put down. The reader is compelled at the end of each chapter to simply keep reading--and them McLaughlin goes back into the past to help explain the present. At times this seemed a bit convoluted, and then it all becomes clear and drives toward the dramatic ending.

My only complaint is that I felt I had picked up the third book in a trilogy, and missed out on a lot of the backstory. McLaughlin just gives hints at the fascinating lives of Leo, the father of the sibs, their long-deceased grandfather and mother, and their uncles Darwin and Jeremy (who play major roles in the present day dilemma). Note to Mr. McLaughlin's editor—please, give us at least one prequel to Panther Gap!! These characters—especially the older family members--are so rich and engaging that they deserve their own story. Fingers crossed!!

Janis H. (Willow Street, PA)

About that trust fund
I finished this book almost two weeks ago, but a reread of several sections had to happen before I could write an honest review. The author likes to jump into a scene as the action is happening, especially in Chapter 1. He moves quickly from one scene to another with no reference link to the previous one. When I reached Page 61, I decided to return to the beginning because hints as to whatever happened in the past. Why do the descendants of the grandfather live in a fortified house carved into a cliff in a mountain cliff with no apparent entrance from the outside world. How much so the uncles who raised the sister know about the money? What happened to the father in Africa? Why is the brother living off the grid on the Pacific Coast of Costa Rico. Is the lost tourist a part of a group that also wants the money or is he really lost? The grandfather's, father's, and brother's paranoia stems from money, a lot of money swindled from the Las Vegas mafia and the Mexican Cartel. Once the action begins James McLaughlin keeps the reader on the edge of the seat; however, the flipping between past and present is like watching a suspenseful television show interrupted by twenty minutes of commercials. Book Browse sent this book to me as an Advanced Reader's Copy. I am sure fans of McLaughin's first book Bearskin will multiply when they read this book. He does write action very well; but. new readers should read the first pages very slowly. The rock falls slowly from atop the mountain but does gain speed as it nears the bottom.

J. deSimas

Dances with Wolves Meets Hawaii Five-O
Here is an engrossing page-turner -- a solid choice for mystery fans or devotees of "Yellowstone."

In "Panther Gap," siblings Summer and Bowman have inherited a huge sum from their long-dead grandfather, who may or may not have had nefarious connections. That they are anywhere near this wealthy has never occurred to them -- their father raised them on an isolated ranch in Colorado, teaching them about the Others (animals) and practicing the "old ways" of the region's original inhabitants. The bulk of the novel describes Summer and Bowman's long-awaited, frequently-thwarted reunion interspersed with flashbacks that fill the reader in on their lives up to this point. Summer, the older of the two, is beautiful, resourceful, and tough – but not invulnerable to love. Her brother Bowman, on the other hand, studies the metaphysical world and is prone to having visions. He frequently does a sort of mind-meld (often under the influence of hallucinogenic substances he has grown, foraged, or purchased) with nearby wildlife, mentally travelling or flying along on their journeys and hunts. Two uncles, a lost lawyer, a two-faced ex-boyfriend, and the memory of the siblings' heart-broken father complete the cast. Once reunited, Summer's and Bowman's task is to claim their gazillions before any of the cartel / mob villains get to it. The result is non-stop action and plot twists.

McLaughlin's oft-praised lyrical style and soaring descriptions of the southwest are here, as is his simple, conversational tone. His characters become more fleshed-out as the novel progresses, and by the end we feel we know their general mindset and motives. The dialogue, however, often feels clunky and trite -- the characters' actions are from "Dances with Wolves" but their conversations are from "Hawaii Five-O." Where McLaughlin's landscape descriptions are lush and evocative, his characters, for all their education and self-awareness, speak in disjointed and unreal phrases. Andrew becomes The Joker toward the end of the book -- kidnappers don't talk like that.

Maybe McLaughlin will put the sincere, soulful tone he uses for his mountain-scapes into the voices of the people who inhabit them. In the meantime, "Panther Gap" is an entertaining and action-packed read.

Stephanie K. (Glendale, AZ)

Panther Spirit and Drug Cartel Violence
Panther Gap by James A. McLaughlin is a wild ride to a deceptively quiet, remote Colorado ranch. Hippie-spirit Bowman and his academic-track sister Summer grow up knowing there's more than what meets the eye in their idyllic existence. Behind the scenes, their family has amassed shocking wealth, and their secret inheritance brings a frightening array of suspicious characters and cartel operatives into their young lives. Bowman utilizes psychedelic rites and Summer ecological knowhow in an attempt to rescue their ranch from a selloff. What the siblings fail to realize is that several powerful drug cartels in the area are far more interested in offshore funds, at the expense of Summer's and Bowman's lives. Their story becomes more involving and fascinating as the chapters roll on, and the last few contain more than a couple of nail-biters. The author ties up the many loose ends very effectively at the conclusion and he has us genuinely caring for the welfare of his well-drawn characters.

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Author Information

James A. McLaughlin

James A. McLaughlin is the acclaimed author of Bearskin, winner of the Edgar Award. A native of Virginia, he now lives in the Wasatch Mountains of Utah.

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