Shell Games is a cops-and-robbers tale set in a double-crossing world where smugglers fight turf wars over some of the world's strangest marine creatures.
Puget Sound sits south of the border between the U.S. and Canada and is home to the magnificent geoduck (pronounced "gooey duck"), the world's largest burrowing clam. Comically proportioned but increasingly fashionable as seafood, the geoduck has been the subject of pranks, TV specials, and gourmet feasts. But this shellfish is so valuable it is also traded for millions of dollars on the black market a world where outlaw scuba divers dodge cops while using souped-up boats, night-vision goggles, and weighted belts to pluck the succulent treasures from the sea floor. And the greatest dangers come from rival poachers who resort to arson and hit men to eliminate competition and stake their claim in the geoduck market.
Detective Ed Volz spent his life chasing elk-antler thieves, bobcat smugglers, and eagle talon poachers. Now he was determined to find the kingpin of the geoduck underworld. He and a team of federal agents set up illegal sales, secretly recorded conversations, and photographed hand-offs from the bushes. For years, they tracked a rogues' gallery of lawbreakers, who eventually led them to the biggest thief of all a darkly charming con man who called himself the "GeoduckGotti" and who worked both sides of the law.
In Shell Games, veteran environmental journalist Craig Welch delves into the wilds of our nation's waters and forests in search of some of America's most unusual criminals and the cops who are on a mission to take them down. This thrilling examination of the international black market for wildlife is filled with butterfly thieves, bear slayers, and shark-trafficking pastors all part of one of the largest illegal trades in the world.
“With hit men, snitches, and midnight smuggling runs, this book has all the adventure of a Miami Vice episode. That it reads like a detective novel - with the quarry being millions of dollars of freakishly large clams - is testament to the formidable writing and reporting talents of Craig Welch.”
-Mark Obmascik, author of The Big Year and 2009 National Outdoor Book Award winner for Halfway to Heaven: My White-knuckled - and Knuckleheaded - Quest for the Rocky Mountain High
“Welch brings us into the underworld of shellfish smuggling from multiple angles...Shell Games is an eye-opener, exposing a murky world operating just below the surface.”
“[A]n engrossing tale of both human excesses and the attempts of a few brave souls’ to curb them. Everyone, not just the denizens of Puget Sound, has a stake in this battle’s outcome.”
“Riveting...Ed Volz and Doug Tobin are perfect antagonists.”
-Wall Street Journal