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Did Not Survive by Ann Littlewood

I received a review copy of “Did Not Survive” and felt privileged to read this second novel by Ann Littlewood, an experienced zookeeper and Audubon Society volunteer in the Portland area. Littlewood brings her wealth of experience to this zoo mystery.

In “Did Not Survive” the old female elephant, Damrey, is accused of mauling and killing a zoo supervisor at Finley Memorial Zoo in Vancouver, Washington. Zookeeper, Iris Oakley, is volunteered by her work mates to investigate the circumstances behind the killing and to vindicate Damrey, if possible.

It is easy to empathize with Iris, a young woman who has recently lost her zookeeper husband and is now pregnant and struggling to adjust to life as a prospective single mother. She is quickly able to prove that Damrey is not the culprit. It is a much harder chore to discover who did it–and to live to tell about it.

There are many people who have a motive to kill Kevin Wallace. Was it the protesters who are trying to get the elephants sent to a sanctuary? Was it a jealous lover? Was it a jealous zookeeper who wanted to get Kevin out of the way for a promotion? Does someone have a hidden motive? Iris examines every option and introduces us to a variety of interesting and suspicious characters in the process. She puts herself in heart-pounding danger that threatens not only her job but also her own life, and that of her baby.

Iris and her creator, Ann Littlewood, offer many fascinating insights about modern day zoos and the factors that can make or break an exhibit. There are lots of back stories about office politics that seem reminiscent of my years in the non-profit world.

Littlewood follows very successfully the writers’ adage to write what you know about. Littlewood knows zoos, and the many little realistic details make “Did Not Survive” a chillingly believable thriller.

I look forward to reading more Littlewood Zoo Mysteries in the future.

Liz Nichols

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