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Eco-thrillers pique interest in crime and the environment

SALISBURY — Eco-thrillers explore the issue of environmental crime, and nature is central to the story. The novels usually involve a single underdog hero who faces down a large, corrupt corporation for the highest stakes imaginable: the future of our planet as we know it.
“The Monkey Wrench Gang,” by Edward Abbey, is a classic environmental novel from 1975 that revolves around George Washington Hayduke III, a Vietnam veteran, who, upon returning home to the desert of southern Utah, finds the canyons and rivers under attack from industrial development. On a rafting trip, Hayduke joins forces with saboteur Bonnie Abbzug, wilderness guide Seldom Seen Smith and billboard torcher Doc Sarvis, and together they wage war on dam builders, road builders and strip miners.
In “Don’t Cry, Tai Lake,” by Qiu Xiaolong, Chief Inspector Chen Cao of the Shanghai Police Department is offered a week’s vacation at a resort near Lake Tai where he can relax, undisturbed by outside demands or disruptions. Unfortunately, the once beautiful Lake Tai, renowned for its clear waters, is now covered by algae and the water is polluted by toxic runoff from local manufacturing plants. Then the director of one of the manufacturing plants responsible for the pollution is murdered and the leader of the local ecological group is the primary suspect of the local police. Chen must tread carefully if he is to uncover the truth behind the brutal murder and find a measure of justice for both the victim and the accused.
In the book “About Face,” by Donna Leon, set in Venice, environmental concerns become significant in Inspector Brunetti’s work when an investigator from the Carabiniere, looking into the illegal hauling of garbage, asks for a favor. But the investigator is not the only one with a special request. His father-in-law needs help and a mysterious woman comes into the picture. Brunetti soon finds himself in the middle of an investigation into murder and corruption more dangerous than anything he’s seen before.
On one of Florida’s private islands, a notorious Russian black marketer is hosting a reception for a group of poachers and smugglers interested in exporting caviar and pushing the fish that provides it closer to extinction. In the book “Chasing Midnight,” by Randy Wayne White, Doc Ford only wanted to get an underwater look at the billionaire’s yacht, but when he surfaces, he gets a look at something he’d rather not see. A group of violent, eco-terrorists have taken control of the island, their true identity unknown. Whatever the motive, they threaten to kill the hostages one by one unless their demands are met — after which they might kill everyone anyway.
“When the Killing’s Done,” by T.C. Boyle, is principally set on the Channel Islands off the coast of California. Alma Boyd Takesue is a National Park Service biologist spearheading the efforts to save the islands’ native creatures from invasive species. Her antagonist, Dave LaJoy, is a local businessman who is fiercely opposed to the killing of any animals whatsoever and will go to any lengths to subvert her plans.
Check out these thrillers and others at Rowan Public Library.

Summer movie series — Headquarters, Tuesdays, 6:30 p.m.; Tuesday, “Argo” (R); Aug. 20, “The Deep End of the Ocean” (PG-13).
East branch, Mondays, 4 p.m.; Monday, “James and the Giant Peach,” (PG).
South Regional, Wednesdays, 2 p.m.; Wednesday, “James and the Giant Peach,” (PG).
Movies are free and all ages are welcome. Children should be accompanied by an adult. Anyone under the age of 16 will need to be with an adult to attend “Argo.” Free popcorn and lemonade.
Computer classes: Gone Phishing: How to Avid Getting Scammed — Aug. 19, 7 p.m., South; Aug. 20, 1 p.m., East (registration required, call 704-216-7841); Aug. 22, 9:30 a.m., Headquarters. Classes are free. Sessions are about 90 minutes. Class size is limited and on a first come, first serve basis. Dates and times are subject to change without notice.
Book Bites Club: South (only), Aug. 27, 6:30 p.m., “The Deep End of the Ocean” by Jacquelyn Mitchard. Book discussion groups for adults and children meet the last Tuesday of each month. The group is open to the public and anyone is free to join at any time. There is a discussion of the book, as well as light refreshments at each meeting. For more information, please call 704-216-8229.
Displays for August: headquarters, anime by Robert Clyde Allen; South, lunchboxes with ‘50s and ‘60s memorabilia; East, photo display by Bonnie Cagle.
Literacy: Call the Rowan County Literacy Council at 704-216-8266 for more information on teaching or receiving literacy tutoring for English speakers or for those for whom English is a second language.

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