Review: Did Not Survive by Ann Littlewood

28 Jul

Did Not SurviveMy rating: 3.5 of 5 stars

I’ve got to stop picking up series in the middle if I’m going to review them. I enjoyed Did Not Survive, but I have this niggling feeling that I would have liked it even more if I’d read the previous book first.

From the Poisoned Pen Press website:

Iris Oakley, pregnant and still recovering from her husband’s murder, wants only to carry on as a keeper at Finley Memorial Zoo in Vancouver, Washington. But she is confronted by a terrifying situation: alone and with no elephant expertise, she must rescue her boss, Kevin Wallace, from being mauled by a zoo elephant. Though she gets him to safety, he dies of his injuries. No one understands why reliable old Damrey attacked the foreman, and Iris inadvertently misdirects the investigation. As zoo staff descend into anxiety and animosity, the welfare of the animals is threatened, as well as the lives of keepers. Rattled coworkers nominate Iris to find out what’s going on. She finds a surprising number of motives to kill the foreman, but Damrey, the elephant, doesn’t have one. Despite the distraction of trying to construct her new life as a single mother, Iris discovers that the elephant keepers are locked in a bitter feud, the new veterinarian is keeping secrets, and an old flame still hates Wallace. New-born clouded leopard cubs cheer up the troubled staff, but even that has its dark side. Adding to the chaos, animal rights activists are picketing the zoo. They want the elephants sent to a sanctuary, but is that a better option for them than the improved exhibit that is on the drawing board? Why isn’t that exhibit under construction as planned? A new foreman shows up with alarming ideas, the police keep dropping by, and animals are disappearing into thin air…

This is a cozy mystery set in a zoo. The primary characters are all employees or residents (the elephants play a major role in the action). To me, the zoo was an unusual and entertaining setting, and I enjoyed the behind the scenes look– particularly at the new baby cloud leopards.

I called this book a cozy, but I’m not entirely sure that is accurate. This book is a little grimmer than I’d usually expect for that genre. It isn’t gory, but it is fairly realistic about the issues of day to day life at a zoo.

The mystery itself was interesting.  It was one where I didn’t even bother trying to figure out Who Dunnit, although I think the information you needed was there if you like to play along.

As is usually the case for me in a cozy, the strength of the book is in the characters. I felt I got to know Iris (the protagonist) fairly well. She’s a zoo-keeper, working with the birds because her pregnancy means the big cats she loves are off limits.  She’s facing the reality of life as a single mother, a situation she didn’t choose.

The book fills us in on the events from the previous book, where her husband was killed by the lions. I wonder if I would have connected with her even more if I’d been there with her.

I didn’t ever really get a good feel for the other characters. That may have been true even if I’d read the first book, but I’m not sure. I kept being told that people were acting out of character, but I didn’t know them well enough to see for myself. The characters worked well enough, but it could have been better if they’d been a bit more real to me.

I might go back and read the first book. I’ll probably pick up the next one!

I requested Did Not Survive for review through NetGalley. Thank you to Poisoned Pen Press for granting my request. Now that I have my Nook and am using it, expect to see NetGalley mentioned here more often!


Posted by on July 28, 2010 in books, reviews


Tags: , , , , ,

4 responses to “Review: Did Not Survive by Ann Littlewood

  1. Trisha

    July 28, 2010 at 9:14 am

    Ah! I can’t believe you read book 2 before book 1! I’ve been seeing so many people do that this summer, and my OCDish heart is just freaking out over it. 🙂 Actually I’m just jealous that people can do that.

  2. brizmus

    July 28, 2010 at 4:21 pm

    I love elephants, and recently I’ve discovered that I also love books that tend to revolve around animals like this one does. I’ll definitely be checking this series out!

  3. Ann Littlewood

    July 29, 2010 at 11:51 am

    Thank you, Laura, for the review! I hope you enjoy Night Kill.


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