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Saturday, September 20, 2014

Book Review: Night Kill

Zookeeping keeps getting more and more dangerous.  If the animals or the crazed visitors don't get you, you still have to worry about killers among your colleagues.  At least, that's the lesson that I'm getting from my fiction library.  Besides Betty Webb's Gunn Zoo mysteries (starting with the absurdly titled Anteater of Death), we now have a second series of zookeeper murder mysteries, starting with Night Kill, by Ann Littlewood.

Iris, a big cat keeper at a fictitious zoo in the Pacific Northwest, finally thinks that she's got a chance of reconnecting with her distant husband, a reptile keeper at that same zoo.  Her hopes are dashed, however, when her husband's body - or what's left of it - is found in the lion exhibit one morning.  Everyone else chalks it up to a tragic misadventure... especially after it's found out that the hard-drinking hubby had a stomach full of booze at the time of death.  Iris just isn't so sure...

Night Kill is considerably darker than Webb's Gunn Zoo stories... which is odd, because both deal with murder.  It is also a fair bit more realistic, in my opinion.  Whereas Webb's zoo is bright, cheery, and almost obnoxiously perfect, Littlewood's reminds me of most of the places where I've worked - gritty and on the edge of falling apart behind the scenes.  Webb alludes to the rough financial situation of many zookeepers, but her heroine is a heiress (try saying that three times fast) who shuns her family's wealth for love of animals. Littlewood's keepers scrim, save, fret about money, and barely get by.  The level of detail in Night Kill is also impressive, whether the narrator is describing the creak of a shift door, fluster of an animal capture, or the long, lonely nights waiting up with an animal in need.

If you enjoy Night Kill, be sure to check out Littlewood's sequels - Did Not Survive and Endangered.,204,203,200_.jpg

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