“Canadian Freeston’s first novel shares many traits with the work of such grand adventure writers as Edgar Rice Burroughs and H. Rider Haggard, including … outsized human figures and animals of heroic proportions; and improbable but entertaining quests.” (PUBLISHERS WEEKLY)
“I nearly missed out on this very good thriller because it came presold as an “environmental” novel. In my experience, labels usually mean lots of message and not much else. I’m delighted to find that d leonard freeston, of Montreal, has a message, talent and a sense of humour … you’ll love Irina Drach!” (THE GLOBE & MAIL)
“I had trouble putting it down … the writing is clever and funny.” (EVOLVER)
“The writing is simply superb. The scientific research that has gone into it is mind boggling, yet presented in such a way that even I could understand it. And the action is breathtakingly nonstop as it flits back and forth between continents in true epic thriller fashion.” (YOUR LOCAL JOURNAL)
Jason Conrad, a Nietzschean figure with the wealth of Bill Gates, decides to preserve for posterity the seeds of as many plant and animal species as possible in a vast and remote underground facility, taking the world’s legitimate seed banks and frozen zoos to a whole new level. He anticipates the Apocalypse or, at the very least, the remorseless trajectory of the Sixth Extinction, which would see the anthropogenic eradication of one half of all plant and animal species within this century.
Conrad’s secret Doomsday Complex, though, is staffed by a combination of environmental experts and mercenaries who will stop at nothing to achieve their once-noble ambitions.
Enter Montreal Sergeant-Detective Irina Drach and her young partner, Sergeant-Detective Athol Hudson. When a fellow police officer is shot dead and his award-winning German shepherd disappears, they connect the crime with a massive assault on Kew Gardens’ Millennium Seed Bank in Ardingly, England, and the violent kidnapping of a Triple Crown thoroughbred named Zarathustra. Soon it becomes apparent that highly organized, ruthless abduction teams are raiding seed banks around the world, as well as snatching up the finest animal specimens from zoos, farms, nature preserves, and the wild.
The hunt is on for the mastermind behind these eccentric and highly toxic operations.
Despite the global implications and ballooning media interest, however, Irina Drach never forgets that her foremost aim is to solve the murder of a friend and fellow officer.
The preceding is the official plot summary of THE SIXTH EXTINCTION. While accurate in those broad strokes, there remains a large patch of blank canvas. It fails to mention that the African lion I-árishóni and the Kentucky thoroughbred Zarathustra occupy central roles. One could go so far as to say that the lion (and to a lesser extent, the horse) is the very engine that propels this thriller-cum-environmental novel. Most of the machinations of the humans (notwithstanding my heroine, Sergeant-Detective Irina Drach) are a direct consequence of his capture, of his display at Jason Conrad’s Doomsday Complex as an exemplar of genetic superiority, of his escape, of his flight south to freedom through Northwest Ontario, and of the havoc he wreaks as a fugitive.
Originally, I’d foreseen I-árishóni as simply a leitmotif, a symbol of the vulnerability of wildlife, but as THE SIXTH EXTINCTION progressed, his stature grew. The vulnerability remained, of course (for there are few more vulnerable than a creature being tirelessly hunted down), but he also became progressively wilier, more resilient, more self-sufficient and more formidable. He was already a conspicuously powerful beast at the outset of the novel, but toward the close he’d become a colossus.
Upon reading the final proof, one wag ventured that I’d succeeded in developing the character of the lion without resort to anthropomorphization. As pleased as I was with that remark – for I’d striven for authenticity in THE SIXTH EXTINCTION – I would like to believe I’d achieved something more: an environmental novel in which I-árishóni represents a dialectic between the struggles of the solitary creature (human as much as animal) and the indisputable place of all living beings in the grand scheme of things.