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

4.4 out of 5 stars 25 customer reviews

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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.)
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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
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Product Details

  • Series: Zoo Mysteries
  • Hardcover: 229 pages
  • Publisher: Poisoned Pen Press; UNABRIDGED VERSION edition (September 1, 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 (25 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #4,024,474 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By Cathy G. Cole TOP 1000 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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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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Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
I wish I could give this 4.5 stars--I liked it quite a lot and thought the main character was believable, original, and interesting. However, I had just enough questions about the plot after I had finished it that I feel it just misses being a true 5. 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. I read most of it during an unexpectedly long layover after a flight (incidentally, originating in Portland), and perhaps my questions are the result of not having had enough sleep and reading it too quickly--so I'll give it that 5 after all. I'm looking forward to reading the next in the series.
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Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
I'm not much of a mystery fan but I am an avid biology/animal story buff. After reading Betty Webb's Gunn Zoo mysteries (The Anteater of Death: A Gunn Zoo Mystery (Gunn Zoo Series) and The Koala of Death: A Gunn Zoo Mystery (Gunn Zoo Series)), I did a keyword search on 'zoo mystery' and these books popped up. What a great discovery! This book is the first in a series of three (with more on the way, I hope). Read this one first as the second and third develop from this one. The plot is intricate, and characters well-developed and interesting. The biology seems spot on. The animal focus in this book is Felids....the protangonist's husband (another zoo-keeper) is found dead in the lion grotto and she herself is the Feline keeper. Great find!
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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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