Betty Webb comes to the blog today with the fifth installment in her Gunn Zoo Mystery series, the first I’ve read. Please read on for my review of
The Otter of Death
I’ll be honest – it was the cover and title of this series that completely captured my attention – who could resist and Otter with a smartphone, and perhaps holding the keys to a murder mystery? I’m not one who could – and I’m glad that I didn’t. Theodora Bently is a zookeeper at Gunn Zoo, and also works on local environmental projects, the most recent being the yearly Otter Count near Monterey Bay. When she spots one of her countees holding a smartphone – she claims the phone and notices that the last photo is one that captures a murder in progress: the murder of the phone’s owner, Stuart Booth, a local Marine Biologist and instructor – body soon to be discovered.
Teddy’s significant other, Sheriff Joe Rejas wants her to stay out of the investigation – but some things just aren’t going to happen. Stuart wasn’t mourned by many, and the list of potential culprits is long and varied – his reputation and behavior were far beyond exemplary, and Teddy’s boss, despite Joe’s warnings, wants her to keep asking questions.
Oh the twists and turns in this one were fun – and occasionally leaned toward dangerous – physically and relationship wise. Teddy’s oft married mother was once in the ‘elite’ crowd that she’s managed to stir up, but the tensions between them reach a head, and we see where Teddy’s reluctance to commit to marrying Joe, with his children and family, leaving her houseboat behind. Add in an obvious ‘pull her in two directions’ conflicts that pit work against relationship, some truly clever moments with a varying cast of animal characters, some truly laugh out loud moments and plenty of people with reasons to want Stuart dead, and the mystery here manages to carry through to the last pages…
Not contrived or leaving readers with a feeling that too many red herrings are slipped into the plot to keep it interesting, the story is a solid mix of investigations and questions, peppered with ‘everyday’ moments that highlight Teddy’s life as she tries to balance questions, responsibilities and the many decisions that she must make about her own life. A lovely introduction to a series that is sure to please mystery fans, particularly those who appreciate a mix of ‘everyday life’ of the characters as the search for culprits continues
Title: The Otter of Death
Author: Betty Webb
Series: Gunn Zoo Mystery #5
Genre: Animals, Contemporary Cozy Mystery
Published by: Poisoned Pen Press
Published on: 2 May, 2018
Source: Publisher Via Edelweiss
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While taking the yearly "otter count" at a marsh near Gunn Landing Harbor, California, zookeeper Theodora Bentley sees Maureen, her favorite otter, swimming around clutching someone's expensive smartphone. When Teddy rescues the device, she discovers a photograph of a murder-in-progress. A hasty search soon turns up the still-warm body of Stuart Booth, PhD, a local Marine Biology instructor.
Booth was a notorious sexual harasser of young female students, so the list of suspects is long enough to make Teddy wonder if the crime will ever be solved. But when her friend, Lila, one of Booth's original accusers, is arrested and charged with his murder, Teddy begins to investigate. This creates considerable tension with Teddy's fiance, Sheriff Joe Rejas. He believes the ever-inquisitive zookeeper might be putting her own life at risk, and so orders her to butt out.
Concerned for her accused friend, Teddy ignores Joe's ultimatum. She questions not only members of Gunn Landing's moneyed social elite, but also the other side of the financial spectrum - the financially strapped young women willing to do almost anything to pay for their college tuition. Alarmed by Teddy's meddling, Booth's killer fights back - first with a death threat, then via gunshot.
In this fifth Gunn Zoo Mystery, Teddy is torn between living a peaceful life on her Monterey Bay houseboat with her three-legged dog DJ Bonz, or moving inland to marry Joe, who comes with kids and a mother who has her own mysterious agenda. The choice is scary for Teddy - who has barely been managing her own many-times-married mother, and her imperious employer, Aster Edwina Gunn, overlord of the famed Gunn Zoo. Teddy's life is further complicated by a wayward snow monkey named Kabuki, taunter of teenage boys. The zookeeper's dedication to her charges - including the anteater, the koala, the llama, and Magnus, the polar bear cub from Iceland (met in Teddy's last adventure, The Puffin of Death), never falters in a cleverly plotted series rich in characters and in animal lore.
A copy of this title was provided via Publisher Via Edelweiss for purpose of honest review. I was not compensated for this review: all conclusions are my own responsibility.