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A Killer Stalks The NightThe canyon is dark. Pitch dark. It is quiet. Deathly quiet, except for the howl of distanct coyotes and the occasional roar of one of the big cats. Fifteen-year-old Ben has been left in charge of the family's California wild animal preserve while his parents are in Africa.Suddenly the silence of the night is broken by screaming peacocks. Someone is out there. Someone with a score to settle. And tonight is only the beginning...

Author Biography: Theodore ...

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A Killer Stalks The NightThe canyon is dark. Pitch dark. It is quiet. Deathly quiet, except for the howl of distanct coyotes and the occasional roar of one of the big cats. Fifteen-year-old Ben has been left in charge of the family's California wild animal preserve while his parents are in Africa.Suddenly the silence of the night is broken by screaming peacocks. Someone is out there. Someone with a score to settle. And tonight is only the beginning...

Author Biography: Theodore Taylor was born in North Carolina and began writing at the age of thirteen as a cub reporter for the Portsmouth, Virginia Evening Star. Leaving home at seventeen to join the Washington Daily News as a copy boy, he worked his way toward New York City and became an NBC network sportswriter at the age of nineteen. Mr. Taylor is the author of a dozen books for young readers, among them the award-winning The Cay. He lives in Laguna Beach, California, with his wife, Flora.

Fifteen-year-old Ben must cope alone when a mysterious sniper begins shooting the big cats in his family's private zoological preserve.

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Editorial Reviews

Children's Literature
There are two significant strengths to this book. The first is characterization. While there are external struggles, most of the dynamics are internal. The main character, Ben, is kicked into the hero’s journey rather than willingly undertaking it. He faces many challenges (e.g. parental approval, fear, loss, and revenge) and grows as a result. The second strength of this book is its detail about some aspects of the big cats on the preserve from the character’s perspective. Additionally, it is interesting to note that immigrants and minorities are in well-integrated, prominent roles, and that their inclusion occurs in neither a flippantly disrespectful or politically correct manner. However, two weaknesses are noted. First, when the book was originally released, all the technology was current. Without the reader being aware of the historical perspective, some aspects (e.g., night vision technology) seem out of place or inaccurate. Finally, the pacing is slow which may bore the casual reader. Readers in the age group who can identify with Ben, will find it a good book despite the pacing. Reviewer: Mary Ashcliffe
From the Publisher

"With trappings perfect for an edge-of-the-chair television drama, Taylor's novel makes gripping reading."--Booklist

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780380711932
  • Publisher: HarperCollins Publishers
  • Publication date: 8/1/1991
  • Pages: 227
  • Age range: 10 - 14 Years
  • Lexile: 810L (what's this?)
  • Product dimensions: 4.20 (w) x 6.89 (h) x 0.66 (d)

Meet the Author

THEODORE TAYLOR (1921-2006), an award-winning author of many books for young people, was particularly known for fast-paced, exciting adventure novels. His books include the bestseller The Cay, Timothy of the Cay, The Bomb, Air Raid--Pearl Harbor!, Ice Drift, The Maldonado Miracle, and The Weirdo, an Edgar Award winner for Best Young Adult Mystery.

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Read an Excerpt

Chapter One

First Day

Los Coyotes Preserve

As if jabbed with a long needle, BenjaminJepson jerked awake to screams of peacocks. Heart slamming for a few seconds, he sat bolt upright, looking outside toward the abrasive, metallic sounds.

Who's out them? What's bothering them? he thought as the high-pitched screaming continued.

Trying to collect his senses, Ben scrambled out of bed, remembering his dads warning never to turn on room lights when alarms rang. Any alarms, including the stupid peacocks. Night vision might well be needed out in those deep shadows around the trees and bushes and in the sandy paths along the animal compounds.

His dad, Dr. Peter Jepson, was director of Los Coyotes Preserve, their private zoological resource specializing in big cat study. They had both the Panthera, large roaring cats such as lions and tigers, and the Felis, smaller purring cats such as cougars.

Ben, you just never know what the danger may be till you're facing it. Sometimes too close, much too close.

Alwayssleeping naked,winter or summer, Ben groped around for his clothes — Levi's and a wash-whitened denim shirt; cowboy-styled boots, scuffed and dusty; his Zacatecas straw hat, Nelson sometimes wore, treasured gift of chief handler Alfredo Garcia. Straw hat over straw hair, shading an ordinary freckled face, the feather-banded hat was as much a part of Ben as the dusty boots. He wore it constantly.

The din kept up, and he could feel the presence of Rachel, their large house cheetah,but couldn't see her. Just the same, he was certain that she was sitting up, also hearing the raucous shrilling, amber eyes searching the darkness.

Four of the gaudy birds paraded around outside during the day, common males with long green and gold erectile tails. None too bright, frequently noisy and aggressive, they rested peacefully most nights in the lower branches of the tall cottonwoods.

The silly peacocks were sometimes the best alarm, witless as they were about most other things. Often better than the electronic system on the two main gates, or the sensitized, barbed strand at the top of the perimeter fencing.

They were certainly better alerts than any of the unreliable compound animals. When intruders came around, the sly, suspicious tigers usually stayed dead silent, waiting, in the murk for a victim. So did the leopards and jaguars. But the more excitable lions would sometimes roar at nocturnal invasions of either humans or hapless small animals.

Sometimes crazies, total wackos, total loonies, traveling gong the lonely Orange County road, would decide to pay a visit, climb the fourteen-foot-high chain-link perimeter fence, then scale the individual compound fences to drop down into the cat pens like fat geese, playing with death.

Wackos! Loonies!

Two years ago, a drug-blitzed girl of fifteen had jumped down on two lionesses on an incredibly dumb dare. Sobering up instantly, she climbed an oak. Ben's mother, a light sleeper heard the screams. Had the pink-haired girl chosen the next compound over, Dmitri, the huge Siberian tiger, would have been waiting.

Good-bye, punk rocker from El Toro.

Another stupid, wacko crazy out there, Ben thought, wide awake now and angry at the intruder, pulling up his pants, letting his shirt fall free. He didn't need a jacket. June in the southern California back country was always warm enough for shirt sleeves, even at night.

just what made people do it? Some insane challenge to the cats? He couldn't imagine any more painful, traumatic way to die. Lacerated by three-inch teeth. Eaten alive. The cats didn't know any better. They were absolutely innocent. Meat was meat, animal or human, and there was no remorse, his father said.

Ben saw a shadowy Rachel go over to the window, looking out.

"Who's there, RacheI?" he asked, hooking his belt, hearing his own voice wound up tight, feeling a ticking in his throat, speeding of pulse, dryness of mouth.

He glanced over at the blue face of the nearby clock. Four-fifteen, Tuesday morning. Ten days since they had gone.

He now wished they, illustrious globe-hopping father and mother, were home in Los Coyotes, especially his dad. He didn't take guff from anyone, wackos or not. Neither did his mother, in fact. But it was a totally useless wish. They were in Africa, somewhere deep in the Serengeti, that vast wildlife park in Tanzania, doing a magazine piece on poaching.

They'd left Alfredo Garcia to run the preserve. But two days ago a truck crashed head-on into Alfredo's old Buick on El Toro Road, and the chunky Latino was now in, intensive care, expected to live but badly injured. Fracuturedskull, left leg broken, some internal injuries.

Like it or not, Ben Jepson was suddenly in charge of Los Coyotes. In three weeks he'd be fifteen.

There had been only a small piece of fading moon earlier that night when Ben had walked the pathways along the compounds with his girlfriend, Sandy Gilmore. Now it was black as the inside of a burial vault out there. Darker the night, quieter the animals, always. Spooky, sometimes.

The cats didn't need light, 'and bright illumination only drew road attention to the preserve. Besides, it was too expensive, his dadad said. But Ben at this moment was wishing also useless that the place could be lit up like a baseball park, erasing all shadows. Out there were shadows upon shadows, all in evil shapes, threatening webs and patches and blurs.

Pulling his boots on, Ben realized he was delaying going out. I should be moving faster! No guts.

"Why did it have to happen now?" he said to Rachel. "Why? And why did Alfredo have to wreck?"

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Customer Reviews

Average Rating 4
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Sort by: Showing all of 6 Customer Reviews
  • Posted January 22, 2009

    Sniper 1/22/09 By: Caleb Ford

    Wow, the book sniper by Theodore Taylor was wonderful. It keeps you guessing what is going to happen throughout the whole story. It starts out with a young man named ben who lives at a wildlife preserve in california with his parents. The main attraction at the zoo is large cats such as lions,tiger, cougers, those kinds of awsome creatures. At the opening of the story ben is wakend by something out on the grounds. As he goes to investigate he discovers that some of the cages have been opened and that two of his lions have been shot. As the story continues he learns that the person doing this is a sharp shot sniper that has a grudge against his father. However his parents are out of town and he has no idea how to stop this man before he destroys his families reserve or kills him. The ending is just as good as the beginning so if you want to know how it ends i highly suggest you read this book. It will be worth your time.<BR/><BR/>Caleb Ford

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  • Anonymous

    Posted March 12, 2004

    Great Book!!

    Before reading the book called Sniper, I thought it would be hard to find a good book that I was interested in. After reading a book a few years ago entitled Harry Potter, many books that I read were just too boring to even bother reading them. When I received this project, I thought it would be extremely boring. I was soon proven wrong with this novel. The story starts out telling about Ben, the main character¿s life. His parents started a wildlife research facility called Los Coyotes Preserve. It was a facility dedicated to helping wild cats such as the Panthera and Filis breeds. Ben¿s parents leave for Africa to help with the poaching problem they are having. Ben is left in charge of the ranch along with Alfred, the chief handler, and Dr. Odigina, who is the doctor for all of the animals. In this story, there are many different names of animals to remember. There is Dmitri, which is an eight-foot-long tiger which has to be fed by a shovel. Rocky, is a tiger also and has been Ben¿s friend ever since he was born. Some others are Mickey, Chico, Helen, Daisy and Missy. Most of them are tigers but some like Daisy and Missy are mountain lions. Throughout the book, the story keeps you wanting more. On many occasions I got in trouble when I didn¿t come downstairs to eat because I wanted to keep reading my book. The whole novel is full of action and exciting events. There is a sniper in their ranch that keeps killing all of the cats. The whole book is about trying to catch the sniper. I¿m not going to spoil the book for you so you will just have to read it yourself. I think the book is directed to the teenage crowd. Some younger audiences might not understand all of the words mentioned. I would highly recommend this book to anybody who is interested in any type of action novels. Like I said earlier, it rivals Harry Potter to be one of the best books I have ever read. If you don¿t decide to read it, you will be missing out on one of the best books ever made!

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  • Anonymous

    Posted October 11, 2003


    This is a very good book. There is deadly sniper in the canyon shooting the Jepson's lions. But Ben ,a fifteen year old boy, is left home alone with the lions as he parents travel to Africa. They think it is one of their angry neighbors shooting the lions at first, but then he dies. They figure out it is an ex-seal seeking revenge because a lion mauled his daughter years ago.Throughout the book they try to catch the sniper and protect their lions.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted September 29, 2001

    Right on Target

    A really good book. Just finished it. About this kid in charge of his parents game preserve. Then, 4 of his parents' big cats are killed by a vengeful ex-SEAL. A really good book if you are intrested in firearms.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted February 11, 2000


    Ben Jepson awakened to the sound of gunshots. He has been put in charge of his parents wildlife preserve, and the last thing he needs is to have someone shooting up the animals. But it is exactly what he gets. Now he must discover who the sniper is and why he is killing before he comes after Ben.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted December 16, 2008

    No text was provided for this review.

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