Reviews of Panther Gap by James 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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  • First Published:
    Apr 2023, 368 pages

    Apr 2, 2024, 368 pages


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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.



Bowman sat on the floor of the hayloft and kicked his bootheels on the boards to knock off the snow while his father walked downstairs for the eagle.

He wore a green wool watch cap pulled down over his ears, wool pants, a plaid wool jacket. Over the jacket, his father had strapped a baseball catcher's chest pad to Bowman's back and pinned a stiff, poorly tanned Alaskan wolf pelt to the pad. Two half-frozen chicken necks dangled on a leather strap tied to the back of the wolf's head.

Bowman shut his eyes. Wolf-scent from the thick coarse fur of the pelt enveloped him, somehow familiar, triggering what felt like long-ago memories, or the shreds of a dream slipping away in the morning. His saliva flowed at the raw meat of the chicken necks and he swallowed to keep from drooling on the barn floor. His sense of smell was too sensitive, which he thought was strange, but he didn't dwell on it. Instead he leaned over to the hay bales stacked behind him and inhaled the sweet scent of ...

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This is one of those books that defies genres: it's a thriller, an environmental diatribe, a saga of two siblings, and an exploration of mystical relations between human and animals (Julie P). 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 (Patricia G)...continued

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(Reviewed by BookBrowse First Impression Reviewers).

Media Reviews

McLaughlin's writing is absolutely electric.

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

Author Blurb Adam White, author of The Midcoast
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.

Author Blurb Angie Kim, Edgar Award-winning author of Miracle Creek
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.

Author Blurb Brian Panowich, author of Bull Mountain, Hard Cash Valley, and Nails
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.

Author Blurb Chris Pavone, bestselling author of Two Nights in Lisbon
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.

Author Blurb David Heska Wanbli Weiden, Anthony and Thriller Award-winning author of Winter Counts
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.

Author Blurb Heather Young, author of The Distant Dead
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.

Reader Reviews

Molly B. (Longmont, CO)

Wild but oddly, kind of believable
First of all, the book is the kind I like to read - fast paced, interesting, weird, and surprising, with no boring sentences. The plot is wildly imaginative, and more than a bit woo-woo, but it was presented so matter-of-factly, or perhaps so well ...   Read More
Mark S. (Blauvelt, NY)

A Unique Thriller
Fascinating read! It takes a little while to get used to the change in time and narrator, but it was worth it to figure out who was who and when was when. Minus the satire, it was similar to trying to figure out what is going on in Catch-22. My ...   Read More
Valerie C. (Chico, CA)

Complex and exciting
Great read with a strong female lead. Very complicated and well developed plot and characters.
Carol R. (North Mankato, MN)

Engaging and beautiful scenery!
I loved this book although it was not an easy read. The story unfolds with visits to the past as we learn more about the cast of characters, family history, conflicts, and clues concerning the rumored inheritance. The descriptions of the scenery, ...   Read More

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Beyond the Book

The San Juan Mountains

Color photo of a segment of the San Juan Mountains, with snowy peaks visible in background and an expanse of grass and pine trees in foreground James McLaughlin's Panther Gap includes beautiful descriptions of the nature surrounding the novel's titular location in remote Colorado. Our First Impressions reviewers were taken with these landscape depictions, prompting some to imagine being or going there themselves. Luckily, this is possible…sort of.

In a recent interview with The Big Thrill, McLaughlin explains that the setting of the book is fictional, but based on real elements, notably the San Juan Mountains: "Panther Gap, the place, is basically a high-elevation valley transplanted from the San Juan mountains sixty miles southwest to the arid corner of Colorado. I also populate the valley with a fanciful complement of charismatic megafauna."

The San Juan ...

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