A Zoo Mystery
By Ann Littlewood
(Poisoned Pen Press, Paperback, 9781590587850, 250pp.)
Publication Date: July 2012
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Zoo keeper Iris Oakley is sent to a remote farm in Washington State to rescue exotic animals after a drug bust. Instead of pets, she finds smuggled parrots and tortoises destined for sale to unscrupulous or unsuspecting collectors. The zoo’s facilities are full, and she ends up with two macaws shrieking in her basement. The marijuana grow operation and the meth lab are the cops’ problem. The smuggling side-line is hers. An outraged Iris is determined to break the criminal pipeline that snatches rare animals from the wild and leaves them neglected in old barns. Then she discovers a woman who escaped the bust—dead. Iris has stumbled onto a violent crime, something far too dangerous for a widow with a young son. But it’s too late to untangle herself. Brothers from the farm, both murder suspects, invade her home, demanding information she doesn’t have. Iris flees with her child, but soon her only option is to go on the offensive. People she counts on are not who they claim to be. A friend is shot during a break-in at the zoo and may not survive. Hunting for the brothers, Iris sorts through baffling clues and trips over secrets old and new. Why steal an ordinary drinking glass? Why do the brothers think she knows where their father’s fortune is hidden? Could the noisy parrots be hiding crucial information in plain sight? She realizes a key piece is missing, but finding it means confronting a determined killer.
Ann Littlewood was a zoo keeper in Portland, Oregon for twelve years. She raised lions and cougars, an orangutan; and native mammals, as well as parrots, penguins, and a multitude of owls. The financial realities of raising primates (two boys of her own) led Ann to exchange a hose and rubber boots for a briefcase and pantsuit in the healthcare industry. Ann has maintained her membership in the American Association of Zookeepers and has kept in touch with the zoo world by visiting zoos and through friendships with zoo staffers.