Fiction - Thriller - Environmental
265 Pages
Reviewed on 08/31/2021
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Author Biography

Kesterson is a fictionalized account of a case I worked on as a water lawyer. The novel pits the might of corporate big agricultural against the plight of a national treasure, our awesome migratory waterfowl.
The author spent most of his legal career as a water attorney. Kesterson was a real life environmental disaster that the author was right in the middle of.
This environmental thriller should appeal to readers who enjoy nature, plot twists, and surprises endings.
The book was written as a cautionary tale of what can happen to the environment if we drop our guard. Kesterson is a kind of allegory to larger issues that are happening all the more frequently: the fires in the west, the flooding in the south and east, and, of course, the consequences of our warming planet.

    Book Review

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.

Lesley Jones

In Kesterson by Craig Wilson, Phil Abbott has a $200K bounty on his head and has just escaped an assassination attempt. Phil wonders if his investigation into the environmental emergency at Kesterson National Wildlife Reserve has caused Midlands Water District's founder, Bob Baxter to take extreme measures to silence him. After all, Baxter had built his empire with fierce determination since 1958. Baxter had taken advantage of struggling farms in the area and slowly built a highly lucrative water project in the San Joaquin valley which, on the surface, was a great benefit to society. Even the drainage problem had been solved by diverting the drain water towards the Kesterson National Wildlife Refuge. However, this creative solution to the drainage issue became the death sentence to the visiting birds. Baxter is determined to keep this problem a secret so his farming operations can continue. Up until now, Baxter had managed to buy co-operation and silence from everyone including congressmen. Even the death and deformity of birds was successfully covered up thanks to his navigation of an ally in the United States Bureau of Reclamation. Everything was going to plan until Phil discovers the wildlife catastrophe has been caused by high levels of a mineral called selenium in the water coming from a drainage canal. Phil uncovers corrupt bureaucracy and bribery at the highest level but is determined to bring those responsible for the disaster to justice.

The action begins immediately in this fictional depiction of the real environmental disaster at Kesterton in the 1980s. Each character has been created with a great deal of detail and consideration which highlights their moral compasses perfectly. I loved the lead character, Phil; he was tenacious and relentless in his pursuit of justice. I thought his relationship with Amy developed perfectly as the story progressed. They made an excellent investigative team and the obvious chemistry between them brought an interesting layer to the story. The plot also uncovers the immoral lengths some people will go to in order to further their own careers, businesses, and financial status. The safety of the environment and the well-being of nature is considered just an irritation and inconvenience to their goals. The amount of bribery and corruption in the federal government was very realistic but also unnerving. There is a tremendous amount of tension, twists, and turns throughout Kesterson which will keep you on the edge of your seat. I absolutely loved the explosive scenes in the court towards the end. This is a brilliant story by Craig Wilson of how good battles evil and the importance of holding true to your beliefs and fighting for those without a voice.

Renee Guill

Kesterson by Craig Wilson is a story based on a real-life experience. It is about a water crisis in Southern California. A bunch of farmers had found a way to get water to them so they can grow their crops. It was cheap for them, but they soon realized it was not. An owner of a duck farm next to them learned the hard way that the water was not safe. He hired some lawyers to look into it and it became a government issue. It is like getting a behind the scenes look at how the government works.

I thought that Kesterson by Craig Wilson was a fascinating read. I loved how you get a detailed look at what a court case is really like. The world-building was really well done. I had no trouble picturing everything and I never felt lost. I should warn you, Wilson is very descriptive (which I like), but in some cases, maybe too descriptive. He does go into great detail about hunting and cooking a duck, so if you get squeamish easily, you might want to skip that chapter. I liked all the characters, especially Amy; she used her smarts in a good way. If you are fascinated with court cases, or how the government works, this is a great read. Also, if you are into helping climate control this will give you some aha moments, which I loved. There was a twist in the end that I never saw coming; it was fascinating. A definite must-read.