Night Kill
by Ann Littlewood

Poison Pen Press, 2008. ISBN 978-1-59058-504-7.
Reviewed by Sharon Wildwind
Posted on 10/16/2008

Fiction: Mystery

Iris Oakley should have had better sense than to go to a work-sponsored party a week after she threw glass bottles full of beer at her husband, Rick, then walked out on him. It was a zoo party. They were both zoo-keepers. Rick was sure to be there.

And he was.

Rick and Iris made up, sort of. They made love in his pickup truck, no sort-of about that. But the next morning, Rick was dead, mauled to death by one of Iris' lionesses. An accident or murder?

Ann Littlewood's first mystery, Night Kill, is a fascinating look at what happens behind the scenes in a zoo. The Finley Memorial Zoo is small, without some of the niceties of big city zoos, but zookeepers, like Iris, do their best to keep their animals healthy and well-fed. Only somebody isn't in the mood to return the favor to Iris; they definitely want her unhealthy—dead would be even better. At first, the accidents that happen to Iris cause her boss to lose confidence in her. He moves her from big cats to the aviary, figuring that she's safer around small birds. Only she isn't safer and she darn sure isn't happier.

She thought she knew the people she worked with, but as the mystery deepens, she realizes that she can't trust anyone. Only the cats know what happened the night Rick died, and they aren't talking—or are they? Can Iris untangle the clues Simba, Sugar, and Spice are giving her before someone else ends up dead in the lion enclosure?

We could discuss from now through tomorrow whether zoos are a good or bad idea. That's not the purpose of this book. In truth, if you are anti-zoo, you may want to pass. But if you like a well-drawn heroine who knows how to stick up both for herself and for the creatures under her charge, you'll quickly grow to like Iris. And you'll learn a great many fascinating bits about what it takes to care for wild animals.

This is a great first book, with a nice balance of character development and mystery. I hope we see Iris again soon.

Anne Littlewood started off with a degree in Psychology. She eventually ended up as a zoo-keeper, and to quote from her bio on her web site, "On my first day working for pay, I pushed worm pills down three wild-born wolf pups. You never forget that." In Night Kill, she's combined her love of mysteries and her love of animals. Visit her website.

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