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Reviewed by Asher Syed for Readers' Favorite
Kesterson by Craig Wilson is an environmental suspense novel based on the real-life selenium poisoning that occurred at the former Kesterson National Wildlife Refuge. Wilson begins with an immediate rush of intrigue as two men make their way toward a target, aiming to kill. The murder-for-hire is foiled when their target evades them, running to safety and soon after relaying a story he says is over a decade in the making. From there, the book shifts to a narrative that reads like it is present tense but is, in fact, Phil retracing events that extend back to the 1950s. The establishment of Kesterson involves deep corporate pockets and, initially, congress. By the time thousands of acres of Kesterson wetlands are so toxic that the wildlife is either decimated or the next generation is deformed, it becomes very clear that the stakes are too high, the corruption is too deep, and the greed is so intense that forcing change will be as deadly as the water.
Craig Wilson's Kesterson is a fact-heavy novel and Wilson delivers the wildlife version of Erin Brockovich as he weaves between then and now. The writing style is simple for suspense but the backstory is rich and because of this, and the amount of information we're deftly provided with by characters instead of the usual narrative dumps, the simplicity of prose is a welcome reprieve. The disparity between the rich and not-so-rich is on full display as the former are able to navigate rather comfortably at the expense of the latter. It's equally infuriating and heartbreaking to read. A shocking twist involving carbon-monoxide poisoning hammers home the extent of foul play in Wilson's iteration. I loved Phil and Amy who feel like the type of people I'd want to be friends with. This is a really good read and I'm so happy to have stumbled across it.