Thursday, September 09, 2010

The Anteater of Death by Betty Webb

Title: The Anteater of Death
Author: Betty Webb 
ISBN: 9781590587744
Publisher: Poisoned Pen Press, 2010
Paperback, 250 pages
Genre: Amateur Sleuth, #1 Gunn Zoo mystery
Rating: A
Source: Purchased at The Poisoned Pen.

First Line: Intrigued by the commotion underneath the banana palm, Lucy curled her four-inch claws under her leathery pads and moved forward on her knuckles to investigate.

If Lucy, the pregnant Giant Anteater at the Gunn Zoo in central California, didn't kill the man found dead in her enclosure, who did? It's up to her keeper, Teddy Bentley, to find out before the anteater is shipped to another zoo in disgrace.

Before Teddy can really get started, another human bites the dust, the monkeys have a hissy fit, the wolves are in a tizzy, and the rich Harbor folks are trying to evict Teddy from her houseboat. Has Teddy got what it takes to save Lucy-- and herself?

I have long been a fan of Webb's series set right here in the Phoenix metropolitan area which feature P.I. Lena Jones. The only other mystery writer who gets the Phoenix area "right" is Jon Talton. (Take a look at my Favorite Mystery Series page for more information. Webb and Talton are both there.) I also know that Webb can do humor after reading her blog entry about being left at a truck stop while on a book tour. When I learned that she was starting a new-- and cozier-- series featuring a zookeeper, I was eager to try it out.

Although The Anteater of Death features one of those characters I want to slap-- the Annoying Mother-- I really enjoyed the book. Teddy has a good sense of humor that made me laugh out loud more than once, she truly cares for animals, she deals as best she can with The Mother, and she has good instincts on how to conduct an investigation:

Since I couldn't seem to find any actual clues, the solution to the mystery might be found in behavior. For all their purported brainpower, people are still animals. Deny them food, exercise, or sex, and they get cranky. Threaten them and they become downright dangerous.

Although the Bad Guy should've been obvious to me, the reveal came as a surprise-- mostly because the book was filled with attention grabbers, both two- and four-legged. This isn't called a "Gunn Zoo mystery" for nothing. Animals do play significant roles in the book, so if you're allergic, this may not be the book-- or the series-- for you. I loved the plot, the setting, most of the characters, and all the animals.

Jezebel at the Phoenix Zoo
Webb did most of her research right here at the Phoenix Zoo, where Jezebel was the role model for the book's anteater, Lucy. (I had fun watching her one morning when I visited.) I find it amusing that I'm writing this review on the day that it was announced the Phoenix Zoo would be having two koalas visit for a period of six months. Why do I find that amusing? (1) Every time I've gone to the San Diego Zoo, the koalas have never been out and about. I wonder if I'll have better luck on my home turf? (2) Webb's second Gunn Zoo mystery is titled The Koala of Death. Did she know something the rest of us didn't?


  1. I read The Koala of Death without having read this one first (heresy, I know). I really enjoyed it, and am glad to hear this one is also a fun read-- I'd like to go back and pick it up at some point.

  2. I've really enjoyed Betty Webb's Lena Jones series as well. I need to try to read this one soon. Haven't visited the Phoenix Zoo but you never know. Maybe next trip. Jezebel is quite the looker! LOL

  3. Cathy - Thanks for this review. I had to laugh when I read your comment about the koalas at the San Diego Zoo. I live about 40 miles from that zoo, so I've been there a few times. And yes, the koalas can be elusive...

  4. This sounds like a good one. It's so nice when an author gets the setting right.

  5. Laura-- It's only heresy for OCD mystery series folks like me! LOL

    Kay-- I don't think Jezebel was very happy that day. She was doing a lot of pacing back and forth.

    Margot-- I swear they have scouts, and each time they find out that I'm headed their way, they go deep undercover! LOL

    Kathy-- It is a good series.

  6. Can you believe I've never ready anything by this author?

    Maybe I'll finally change that with this sounds fun.

  7. Kris-- She's one of my favorite authors, so I hope you'll give one of her books a try.


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