Did Not Survive
Poisoned Pen, Jul 1 2010, $24.95
At the Finley Memorial Zoo in Vancouver, Washington pregnant Iris Oakley is reassigned from her Big Cat keeper job to the birds. Iris finds administrator Kevin Wallace lying in blood and unconscious in the elephant barn. Hovering near him is Damrey the elephant. Iris manages to rescue Wallace, but is bewildered that gentle elderly Damrey would attack him.
Everyone assumes Damrey assaulted Kevin except Sam the elephant head keeper although no one can explain why the victim would be inside that barn or what he did to ignite Damrey’s fury. At the same time while the humans ponder the elephant walk, Clouded Leopard gives birth. However, the zoo turns macabre when an animal corpse is stolen and other animals kidnapped while the elephant herd seems to have drawn angry animal activists and the keepers are fighting with each other.
The second Finley memorial Zoo amateur sleuth (see Night Kill) is an enjoyable mystery with a nice twist of Iris’ “innocent” inquiries confusing the official investigation. The sleuthing is fun to follow, but the prime pleasure with Did Not Survive is the leisurely vivid descriptions of what goes on behind the scenes at a zoo.