Well, I am almost through my stack of Kjelgaard books. I’ve saved my two favorites for last – Snow Dog and its sequel, Wild Trek. However, I was excited to read A Nose for Trouble, as I had never read it before – I found it on Paperback Swap not long ago. While this story of adventure and poaching was a decent read, it didn’t rise to the top of my favorite Kjelgaard books by any means.
Our story centers on Tom Rainse, who is returning to his home up in the mountains after an indeterminate amount of time for unspecified reasons (Kjelgaard is, if I’m honest, never big on back stories). Tom isn’t planning to stay long (for unknown reasons), but changes his mind when he discovers that there is a lot of drama going on in his previously quiet mountains. Times are changing. For generations, the mountain folk have lived their quiet, hard lives, hunting and trapping as they needed to for food. Now (in the 1940’s), game regulations are becoming a thing, with specified seasons for different animals, in an attempt to preserve game for future generations as well. The mountain folk are not open to this kind of interference from the government, and resent the game warden, Buck. However, Buck has bigger things on his plate than the few deer and rabbits that the mountain folk are shooting out of season – big-time poachers are beginning to realize that they can make a lot of money by harvesting as much game as possible to sell in the cities, and a ring of poachers, headed by a man known as the Black Elk, are shooting everything they can in Tom’s area – and they’ll do whatever it takes to protect their interests.
This book had a little more drama than a lot of Kjelgaard’s books, with a couple of attempted murders and a lot of angst between the mountain folk and the game warden. Tom, who has spent time outside of the mountains and understands how the world is changing, believes in the work the game warden is trying to accomplish, and gets caught in the midst of the fight between the warden, the Black Elk’s gang, and the antipathy of the mountain folk towards both parties. Throughout, Tom is able to work to catch the Black Elk thanks to the assistance of his bloodhound cross, Smoky.
While the story was decent, and Tom a likable protagonist, the plot was rather loose and fairly unbelievable. I enjoyed it as a one-time read, and would like to get my hands on the sequel, Trailing Trouble, but overall not one of Kjelgaard’s strongest works. 3/5.