When zookeeper Iris Oakley is sent to the secluded Tipton farm in rural Washington to retrieve animals after an unsuspected drug bust, she expects to carry out her orders with little trouble. What she gets, however, is a mass animal trafficking cover-up and a small village of ill-treated tortoises and parrots, including two giant macaws that might be hiding a secret to the Tipton family’s fortune. She also finds the body of a young girl, presumably killed by police during the raid, but the Tipton brothers are suspects and they’re on the loose. What begins as a normal day for Iris soon catapults her into a dangerous web of murder, greed, and betrayal as she works to unravel the threads of the crimes committed against animal and human alike. With the police giving her the brush-off and her boss lingering behind the boundaries, Iris finds that it’s up to her to get the answers. She’s left to try her luck as an amateur sleuth to put the pieces of the puzzle together all the while protecting her two year-old son, appeasing her house mates, maintaining her job, and keeping up with the two macaws that have been thrust into her care. She’s aided in her efforts by a charismatic Animal Control worker and a handsome reporter, both of whom rekindle a fire in Iris’s heart left dormant for years since her husband’s death. But someone is not who they seem and while she’s busy staying ahead of the dangerous Tipton brothers, Iris soon finds that her closest allies could be her greatest threats.
A unique combination is found in Ann Littlewood’s Endangered: a gripping mystery, a collection of wonderfully charming characters, a dose of wit, and a very relevant examination of the realities of animal trafficking and the suffering of poorly thought-out pets. Littlewood draws on both her admiration for animals and her experience as a zookeeper to infuse the novel with the sort of detailing that enraptures a reader, and her keen talent for crafting smart characters and unexpected thrills carries the story into a fascinating new landscape. The result is a book as easily enlightening as it is entertaining. The pacing of the book is well done, allowing the reader to examine the details of Iris’s life and plight before zipping through the curves of a superbly-crafted plot. I felt that a door had been opened, an opportunity to explore and learn about a unique new world; I loved it. And as for the plot, I thought for sure I knew who’d done it…and I was in for a shock.
I was instantly drawn to Iris, a character who works hard, lives passionately, and deals with life’s little (and not-so-little) problems as they come. Her partner in retrieving the exotic animals, her old flame Denny, was another source of intrigue with all his quirks, conspiracy theories, and honest likeability. Scattered amid the pages of the book are yet more vivid, curious characters and Littlewood comfortably invites her reader to settle in and get to know them. Though easily read on its own, Endangered is the third in Ann Littlewood’s Iris Oakley zoo mysteries; I’m looking forward to revisiting the plucky heroine and experiencing more of Iris Oakley’s world throughout the series. In all, Endangered is a terrific excursion for thrill-seekers and animal lovers alike; call it a safari of suspense, and a very enjoyable one.
Also of note, a portion of the author’s proceeds from the book benefit various animal welfare organizations.
Author: Ann Littlewood
Publisher: Poisoned Pen Press
Release date: July 3, 2012
Provided by: Maryglenn McCombs (C/O)
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