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Night Kill (Zoo Mysteries) Hardcover – September 10, 2008

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Product Details

  • Series: Zoo Mysteries
  • Hardcover: 229 pages
  • Publisher: Poisoned Pen Press (September 10, 2008)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1590585046
  • ISBN-13: 978-1590585047
  • Product Dimensions: 5.7 x 0.8 x 8.6 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 12.8 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (24 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #3,579,248 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Littlewood, a former zookeeper, knows a great deal about animal management and goes to some lengths to work her knowledge into her debut, but unfortunately, the behind-the-scenes details slow the pace and dilute the drama. Iris Oakley and her husband, Rick Douglas, are both keepers at a small zoo in Vancouver, Wash., where she works the big cats, he the reptiles. He drinks too much, they fight, she leaves. Then Rick's body turns up in the lion area, ripped to pieces. Unwilling to accept that this tragedy was an accident, Iris decides to find the truth about how Rick died and why. Soon she herself becomes the target of suspicious and increasingly threatening accidents. The plot, a mix of woman-in-jeopardy and standard amateur-sleuth conventions, will be familiar to most mystery readers. Still, the highly original setting is a plus. (Sept.)
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.

From Booklist

Iris Oakley, a zookeeper at the Finley Memorial Zoo in Vancouver, Washington, is having a rough time. Her husband’s drinking has affected their marriage, but there may be a chance at reconciliation. Unfortunately, the next time she sees him, he is dead in the zoo’s lion exhibit. Her friends urge her to investigate and prove that he was murdered, but they also put obstacles in the path of her search for clues. The zoo administration is not happy, either. They move her from felines to birds and urge her to seek employment elsewhere. After surviving some near-fatal “accidents,” Iris figures out what happened to her husband, but she needs to stay alive to prove it. This strong debut by a former zookeeper gives readers a look at the world of zoos while offering an involving mystery plot. Both animal lovers and mystery fans will enjoy it. --Barbara Bibel

Customer Reviews

4.4 out of 5 stars
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See all 24 customer reviews
The plot is intricate, and characters well-developed and interesting.
As many readers have commented, the story and setting feel authentic, the characters are engaging (for the most part), and the quality of the writing is strong.
Linda Kushnir
I thought this book was so good that I bought the 2 sequels and am reading the second one now.
Linda K. Huggins

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

7 of 8 people found the following review helpful By R.J. Peterson on September 22, 2008
Format: Hardcover
Ann Littlewood is a fresh new voice in the mystery field, and her debut novel takes us to new territory - behind the scenes at a metropolitan zoo.

Our guide is Iris Oakley, a feline keeper whose husband is mauled to death by lions. Everyone but Iris believes it was an accident, and even she is almost convinced until someone sets fire to her house and tries to electrocute her in an aviary. Armed with such clues as a mysterious tooth and an illicit love affair, Iris is compelled to set a trap - with herself as bait - to bring her husband's killer to justice.

Along the way, we are treated to a wealth of wry humor and smart dialogue. The supporting cast of zookeepers and administrators are sharply drawn and consistently entertaining. Ann Littlewood is a former zookeeper herself, and obviously knows her stuff. The passion Iris feels for her profession, and the depth of detail, ring with true life experience.

Night Kill feels like the first in a series. I hope so. I look forward to spending more time with Iris Oakley at the zoo.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful By Cathy G. Cole TOP 500 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on November 6, 2010
Format: Hardcover
First Line: Hot breath from the lioness touched my cheek.

Iris Oakley loves her job as a feline keeper at the Finley Memorial Zoo in Vancouver, Washington. What she doesn't love is the amount of alcohol her husband Rick is lapping up every night. After a short separation, the two are reconciled, and Rick swears off the sauce. However, the next morning his dead (and dead drunk) body is found in the lion enclosure. Once Iris sorts through some of her initial grief, she begins to deal with no longer being with the big cats and being trained as a bird keeper-- and the feeling that her husband's death was no accident.

When this book concentrates on animal behavior, the day-to-day running of a small zoo, and the training of the keepers, it is first rate. It is obvious that Littlewood, a former zoo keeper, knows her stuff. A scene in which Iris is attacked by a big cat is scary and riveting.

Unfortunately I never felt connected to any of the characters-- including Iris-- and parts of the plot were too easily deduced. Littlewood's second book in the series, Did Not Survive, is available, and I would be interested to see if the characterization and plot in it can rise to match the author's background knowledge. I'd love to see more writing that matches that big cat attack!
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6 of 7 people found the following review helpful By Evan Lewis on September 23, 2008
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Look, I know this book is fiction. It's a mystery novel, and therefore what snootier readers might call `light fiction.' But Night Kill is more than that. It's the story of a real woman, with a real gone-south relationship, a real career and real problems. And into that real life comes the biggest problem she's ever faced - her husband Rick is found dead, mauled by lions, in what appears to be an act of drunken negligence.

Contrary to what you'd expect of your average fictional heroine, Iris Oakley does not dash off half-cocked, determined to prove Rick was murdered. Instead, real person that she is, she grieves, tries to cope and struggles to bring her life back into balance. Left alone, Iris would likely have accomplished just that. But harder times keep coming her way, and a series of near fatal accidents forces her to re-examine her assumptions about Rick, their life together, and his untimely demise. Step by step, she comes to the conclusion his death was no accident, and it's up to her to do something about it.

One thing that makes Iris so real is her job. She's a zookeeper who lives and breathes the care of exotic animals. She knows their wants, needs and quirky personalities as well as she knows those of her parents, friends and co-workers. This gives her rare and often comical insight into the human condition (as seen in animal terms), and into the animal condition (as seen in human terms). Mixed with the inner workings and day-to-day procedures of the zoo, Iris Oakley's unique perspective on life provides a consistently thoughtful and entertaining backdrop to the story.

Ann Littlewood is to be applauded for this work - something truly different in the world of mysteries. Give us more, Ann!
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful By Ralph on February 5, 2009
Format: Hardcover
This is so rare in modern mysteries. What did Agatha Christie, Rex Stout, Ellery Queen, Erle Stanley Gardner, and Conan Doyle do that modern writers like Sue Grafton are unable to? To provide a mystery where the reader can try to solve the crime, rather than just watching. What used to be called "fair play mystery". And also provide heroes and heroines that did just that.
Ann Littlewood's heroine actually arrives at a solution. And it's one the reader can also reach through logic and not guesswork. Grafton's heroines will go through the motions but not reach an answer. Not enough information had been revealed to do so. The best they do is "set a trap" and then the one of several suspects will stupidly reveal himself and divulge the hidden clue or motive that prevented the solution.
That's fine for people who like to watch soap operas, but not people who want to actually try to solve the puzzle of the plot.
It's wonderful to discover an author I like, even if she has only one title, but I can at least hope for more from Ann Littlewood. Put me on the pre-order list!
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Most Recent Customer Reviews

More About the Author

Ann Littlewood worked as a zoo keeper at the Oregon Zoo for twelve years. She has been scratched, bitten, pecked, stepped on, and taloned. See her website,, for proof and for pretty pictures of animals. Go to her blog, for her Deep Thoughts about Life and more pictures. Ann spends many hours at Finley Memorial Zoo, engrossed in exciting adventures with any animal she wants while channeling Iris Oakley, her mystery-solving protagonist.

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