Death in the Pines by Thom Hartmann

Death in the Pines
Thom Hartmann
Copyright © 2015, Chicago Review Press
Genre: Thriller

Save the trees! Stop genetic modification! After reading Death in the Pines, the political agenda is all too obvious. Death in the Pines started as an exciting novel with action, intrigue, and mystery which made the book enticing within the first few chapters. However, too soon did the mystery fade away. Hartmann is obviously a skilled writer but the second half of the book felt rushed; additionally, the second half of the book seemed to be more focused on bludgeoning the reader over the head with a political agenda rather than telling the story.

Oakley Tyler, the main character in Death in the Pines, used to be a private detective with a partner named John Lincoln. Recently, Tyler’s partner Lincoln was killed, resulting in Tyler taking an early retirement. Unsure of his plans for the future, Tyler withdraws to rural Vermont to hide away from the evils of the modern world. As the story progresses, Tyler is sought out for his investigative abilities.

Jeremiah Smith seeks out Tyler in an attempt to hire him to investigate a potential threat to Smith’s grandson, Jerry. Smith offers a small fee to Tyler for his investigative services and Tyler shows disinterest in resuming his investigative duties. However, Tyler develops a sense of civic duty and ends up investigating the potential threat anyway.

The potential threat in Death in the Pines revolves around a Greenpeace agenda. The primary antagonist, Caleb Benson, is in the logging business, destroying forests one day at a time. Benson epitomizes all that the author loathes; destruction of forests, tests involving genetic modification, and silencing anyone who gets in the way of the tree-destruction business.

The antagonist and his cohorts were all painted as conservative, uneducated, racist hicks. The author made a big deal of making the conservatives look like fools and the only smart characters were the ones who tried to save the world, Greenpeace-style. The political agenda was subtle at first, but in the second half of the book, the political agenda took over and it was the plotline that became subtle.

An interesting part of the plotline was a woman named Sylvia who appeared to the protagonist, Oakley Tyler. Sylvia provided information to Tyler about how to save the planet, like a wise sage. Sylvia told Tyler the story of when the Europeans came to America and took the land away from the Native Americans; Slyvia said, “They raped Mother Earth, murdered the First People [Native Americans], enslaved their own people. Now the richest and most powerful live as gods.” Stop raping the earth! Take the power away from the rich! Political agenda overload; at this point, the author was still being subtle. Not much further into the book, however, the author waterboards his readers with a flood of liberal agenda.

Though readers will likely be drowning from the political agenda waterboarding, Hartmann is obviously a skilled writer. The first chapter, describing how Tyler was dealing with the death of his friend Lincoln, was like poetry. The following couple of chapters draw the reader into the story with an alluring mysteriousness. Unfortunately, the political agenda causes the story to go downhill quickly.

The author goes out of his way to systematically oppose everything a conservative might believe; for example, Hartmann rejects the Biblical account of the world’s creation, he rejects the idea that humans have the right to have dominion over the earth, and he even goes out of his way to reject corporal punishment. Hartmann has the skill to be an excellent writer, but unfortunately he’s too busy towing the party line like a good little political zombie.

Death in the Pines is a story about saving the trees and ending genetic modification. There are some interesting plot elements and unexpected twists, but overall the political agenda seemed much more important than the story itself. Eventually, the story becomes lost in the political agenda and the ending makes very little sense. At times, the book was entertaining, however, anyone who finishes the book will be busy trying to recover from the political bludgeoning that is Death in the Pines.


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