Truth be told, a mystery laden with multiple layers of pulse-quickening drama does not get any better than this. Did Not Survive, the second zoo mystery by Ann Littlewood, could only be hailed as just another knock-out. Who would have thought that a zoo, of all places, would be a habitat for such harrowing episodes as depicted in this fascinating mystery. Only Ann Littlewood could so effortlessly pull such an original plot out of the mundane details involving a small town zoo with a heroine who has a knack for playing the detective.
The narrative opens at Finley Memorial Zoo in Vancouver, Washington when zookeeper Iris Oakley, now pregnant and widowed, stumble upon the scene where her boss Kevin Wallace is being mauled to death by a zoo elephant, Damrey. While the whole zoo staff is rattled by the tragic incident, Iris, who is still recovering from her husband’s murder, thinks there is a lot more to the whole story.
As Iris continues to put together the missing pieces, she uncovers a number of suspects within the four walls of Finley Memorial Zoo with motives to kill Wallace. Could one of them have committed the murder or is it really the doing of a mad animal?
The list of suspects grows as it turns out that the elephant care at the zoo has been under criticism from animal rights activists who are staging protests outside the zoo. The new veterinarian seems suspicious enough and Iris starts to keep a close watch on her. To make matters confusing, a new foreman to replace Wallace shows up. Add to that are a series of other disturbing events, including the theft of a zoo van and the discovery of a dead tiger. Iris is sucked into the vortex of the unfolding drama as the police keep dropping by and the animals disappear into thin air.
In this well-plotted mystery, the expertly sketched characters come alive with an appealing heroine who will win you over. The carefully detailed behind-the-scenes at the zoo is complemented by the fascinating portrayal of animal care and human failings. With its nuanced and crisp writing and the page-turning pace, Littlewood has delivered a smart mystery that will leave you staggered with awe. Wildly entertaining.
Reviewed by Hamdhoon Rashad for Bookpleasures.com