What's to be done about a jaywalking moose? A bear caught breaking and entering? A murderous tree? Three hundred years ago, animals that broke the law would be assigned legal representation and put on trial. These days, as Mary Roach discovers, the answers are best found not in jurisprudence but in science: the curious science of human-wildlife conflict, a discipline at the crossroads of human behavior and wildlife biology.
Mary Roach is the Deborah Vance of science writing ... you’re hooked, and for good reason. Roach has a sure sense of drama, and she crafts sentences that crackle and pop ... In some alternative universe, Mary Roach and Deborah Vance are show business’ hottest comic duo, headlining nightly at the Bellagio or the MGM Grand, packing them in with laugh-till-you-cry tales of bad bears and bad breakups, rogue leopards and rogue lovers. Until that day arrives, you can savor this excellent book.
Ms. Roach lets us ride in her pocket as she climbs into trucks with laconic wildlife officers, or kneels to puzzle out evidence at a training course on wildlife-attack forensics. She’s apparently fearless—who tries to order the deadly poison ricin online?—and always bemused. She’s Everywoman, gawping and giggling, then zeroing in on the heart of the matter with a satisfying summary—or a bemused shrug ... a high-concept, somewhat unruly, utterly fascinating book. Chapters about killer trees and beans, and one on pest control in the Vatican, may seem peripheral. But Ms. Roach’s narrative is wide-ranging, clambering down the taxonomic tree from bears and elephants, leopards and monkeys, to stoats and mice ... With a chilling smile and signature gallows humor, Ms. Roach reminds us who, in the end, remains the most dangerous animal of them all.
The author Mary Roach made her reputation for witty, quirky and sometimes gross science writing in a series of snappily titled books ... The book doesn’t come off as comprehensive, but it does make for an idiosyncratic tour with Roach as the wisecracking, ever-probing guide ... Roach delights in the disgusting details of science. For those of us with, ahem, a taste for scatological humor, she delivers the story of a gull in a crowded nesting area that managed to defecate directly into the mouth of a hooded student ... My favorite moments, ultimately, weren’t the funny ones, but those that reveal a bit of scientific poetry.