Wednesday, May 12, 2021

The Only Clue by Pamela Beason


First Line: Neema cowered in the corner of the pen, her back turned to the mass of people gathering behind her.
Finding and securing funding for her project is a never-ending job, so Dr. Grace McKenna reluctantly agrees to host her first open house at her research center. Gorillas who communicate with sign language aren't something people see everyday, so it seems that the entire town of Evansburg, Washington shows up to gawk. On the morning after the open house, Grace finds that her worst nightmare has come true: the lock was cut off the barn door and all three of her gorillas-- Gumu, Neema, and infant Kanoni-- have disappeared. There's only one clue left behind: a huge pool of blood. 

Grace is practically out of her mind with worry. Is one of her gorillas dead? She hopes that they've just escaped into the forest, but if the press gets hold of the story, she knows that the county will revoke her permit to work with the apes in a heartbeat.

Detective Matthew Finn, who's worked with Grace before, agrees to keep the gorillas' disappearance secret while he works to find them. Has the maniac who killed Grace's first gorilla returned? Her staff members belong to an animal rights union. Could one of them have liberated the apes? Or have the valuable gorillas been stolen to sell on the illegal wildlife market? It's going to take a lot of hard work to find all the answers, and even more important, to find the apes before they come to harm.

The character of Neema the signing gorilla is based on the real life Koko, and Neema certainly has a tough time of it in The Only Clue. She's the loving new mother of baby Kanoni and is happy in her life with her mate Gumu. All that is shattered when thieves break into Dr. Grace McKenna's barn. The pool of blood that's the only clue left behind isn't a very good one. Is it gorilla blood? Which gorilla? Could it even be human blood? It takes time to find out, and time is one thing that Dr. Grace McKenna does not have. There are too many people in charge who really don't have a clue about the work she's doing or about the animals she is in charge of. They are constantly on the lookout for the tiniest thing that will allow them to boot her and her animals out of their county. This really spotlights how tough it is for many scientists who have to wrestle for permits and funding.

Another thing that The Only Clue does an excellent job of bringing attention to is that of the illegal wildlife trade. Why does someone with the right amount of money on hand need to raise a tiger in their big-city apartment? Why do certain countries' traditional medicines seem to insist on the extinction of many animal species? I mean... I adore meerkats, but I don't want a family of them in my backyard. The lengths to which these illegal traders will go to get their hands on money are both chilling and disgusting, and Beason brings it right out in the open without being overly graphic.

As much as I enjoyed the first Neema mystery, The Only Witness, this second book fell flat for me. First, there were Grace's overbearing parents. You know the type, the parents who don't like the career their child has chosen and never miss an opportunity to undermine them? If there's a contest for "I'm So Over Them" Characters, overbearing, judgy parents would rank in my top three. Then there was a bit of deus ex machina at the end to save the day for one of the plotlines, a plotline that I wondered how the author was going to resolve.

But the thing that bothered me the most was poor Neema. She went through emotional hell in this book, and even though there is just one more book in the Neema series, I'm going to leave it here at book two where all is right in her world once again. It's just not right to keep torturing the poor ape.

The Only Clue by Pamela Beason
Wildwing Press © 2013
eBook, 277 pages
Police Procedural, #2 Neema mystery
Rating: B
Source: Purchased from Amazon.


  1. Oh, I was just getting interested in reading about the gorillas, but then I read and thought about them being harmed, sold, and all sorts of horrible abuse against them. I realized I didn't want to read about that.
    I saw the video about a female gorilla trying to cuddle a human baby through a transparent barrier wall, and then bringing her own baby to show the human mother. She held onto her baby for two months and would not let another gorilla near it.
    When I see this, I realize how close we humans are to our primate relatives. Maternal love by primates is very similar to that of humans.
    I saw a video of a mama chimp biting a paw (hand?) of a chimp youngster who had hurt her baby. She was not having it! Then other chip youngsters gathered around the chimp perpetrator to sympathize with him because his paw (hand) hurt from the bite.

    1. I've seen the same mother gorilla film clip.

  2. Oh, I am sorry to hear that this one fell a bit flat for you, Cathy. I don't know if I ever told you this, but I have a language/linguistics background, so I learned a lot about Koko's history. This story's premise appealed to me just on that. But it does sound as if the rest of the story wasn't as appealing. I think I'd worry too much about Neena, too. And I know exactly what you mean about character types that you are just. over.

    1. Some of these character types I'm so over that, when I find one of them in a book, regardless the author, I just want to put it down and move on to the next book. I just may do that next time.

  3. It's really frustrating when a series, even a short one like this one, fizzles out on you. I've had that happen a couple of times, too, and it is always a disappointment that the story can't go on because I think it's the longterm relationship that a reader develops with characters that makes reading series so much fun.

    1. To be honest, I don't think the series fizzled out on me, I fizzled out on it. It's the blasted mood I'm in more than anything else.


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