When The Killing's Done is a novel by T.C. Boyle that is both a drama and a book about the environmental abuse within a national park in California. The book is mainly set around the Channel Islands, specifically Santa Cruz and Anacapa, and although the human story that unfolds is fictional, the environmental details are based on factual events; a variety of invasive species have driven native species to the brink of extinction and in 2001-2 the National Park Service eradicated the non-native black rats in Anacapa Island by poisoning them. In 2006 they worked alongside the Nature Conservancy to remove feral pigs from Santa Cruz Island. It is this that Boyd's protagonist, environmental activist Dave Lajoy, is attempting to prevent, and the majority of the conflict in the novel occurs between Lajoy and National Park Service spokesperson Alma Boyd Takesue, a biologist.
Takesue believes that humans have an obligation to rescue animals from each other. She plans the mass extermination of some species in the hopes that this will save others. LaJoy does not believe that humans have a right to play God like this and these polemic ally different opinions as well as the pair's past history with each other drives the plot as LaJoy goes to any lengths to prevent Alma from succeeding in her objectives.Despite the fact that this would seem to be a novel driven by the subject of environmental abuse it is the effects of their explosive personal relationship that ultimately form the crux of the story.
Boyle does not seem to come down on one side of the environmental debate more than the other and both characters are given strengths and weaknesses, as are their ideologies. Boyle leaves it up to the reader to decide whom they believe to be right and wrong. Boyle also shows that nobody arrives at an ideology in a vacuum and that her characters are deeply affected by events that occurred within their own family histories and experiences. Neither character is as noble as they might want people to believe as they both have ulterior motives in what they are doing.
This is T.C. Boyle' second novel about environmental issues, the first being A Friend of the Earth; Boyle has had a lifelong hobby-like interest in biology, but after seeing childhood forests felled and seeking solace in the calm environment of the Sierra Nevada mountains, was inspired to write the book after being haunted by a quote by Isaac Bashevis Singer; "Every day is Auschwitz for the animals."