Thursday, July 12, 2012


Ann Littlewood was a zoo keeper in Portland, Oregon for twelve years. She raised lions and cougars, an orangutan; and native mammals, as well as parrots, penguins, and a multitude of owls. The financial realities of raising primates (two boys of her own) led Littlewood to exchange a hose and rubber boots for a briefcase and pantsuit in the healthcare industry. She has maintained her membership in the American Association of Zookeepers and has kept in touch with the zoo world by visiting zoos and through friendships with zoo staffers.

Littlewood applied the Page 69 Test to Endangered, her latest novel, and reported the following:
Endangered is the third in the Iris Oakley zoo mystery series. In this scene, Iris is interviewed by Officer Gil Gettler of the Clark County, Washington, Sheriff’s Department. The day before, while removing pet macaws (a pair of large, unfriendly parrots) from a remote farm after a drug bust, Iris discovered a plastic bag hidden behind their cage. It contained a small water glass with tissue paper stuffed inside. Puzzled, she handled it carefully and intended to turn it over to law enforcement, but didn’t have the chance. She drove the macaws to Finley Zoo where she works, left the van briefly in the parking lot, and returned to find the van broken into and the bag missing. She called a police officer, who didn’t believe her and pissed her off by implying this was a drug buy gone bad. But Deputy Gettler, who participated in the drug bust, came to the zoo to hear her story.
“How could this bag have gotten where you found it?”

I’d been thinking about that. “One way would be when the cage was first set up. But it wouldn’t be that hard to do later. The cage has small doors so you can reach in to feed and water from either side. The door on the far side wasn’t hard against the wall. You could reach in, unlatch it from the inside, and push it open it three or four inches. Then you could drop the bag down between the cage and the wall. If you wanted to hide it, toss some birdseed and feathers after it. Then close the latch again.”

“So anyone could have put it there.”

“Not really. Whoever did it had to stick their hand in with the macaws. They’re likely to bite.”

“How bad would that be? What if you wore gloves?”

I shook my head. “With gloves, you couldn’t unlatch the far door. Without them, you could get chomped pretty good. But if the birds knew and liked you, you could try it without gloves.”

His eyebrows went up. “Who knew you’d found this?”

“I can’t remember who was around when I brought it outside and showed it to Denny. It was a bright day. Someone could have watched us from the woods and seen me bring the bag out. You could hide an army around that place.” Pluvia had said that Tom and Jeff watched from the woods.

He moved on to the van robbery in the employee parking lot. If he didn’t believe me, at least he was polite about it. He said, “That bag might have nothing to do with the Tiptons, but if you find it, we’d like to see it. It’s a murder investigation, and we have to follow up on all the leads. Thank you for your time.”

He was being dutiful and doubtful, and I couldn’t blame him. I moved to another concern. “Um, are you looking into the wildlife smuggling? Where they got the parrots and tortoises?”

“That would be the Feds. You could contact U.S. Fish and Wildlife.”

I might have to do that.

“Uh, one more thing.”

He waited, eyes alert.

“Liana wasn’t killed during the bust, right? She didn’t die where I found her.”

A stiff smile. “Let me know if you remember anything else of significance.” And he took his leave.
Of course Iris is correct. The murder victim was killed elsewhere and staged to look as if she were shot during the bust. Iris is mystified—anyone who’s ever seen a crime show knows that forensic investigators will figure this out in a heartbeat. Who would be so naïve? The criminal family who lived at the farm, perhaps. Still… And what’s up with hiding this water glass? What was wrapped up in that tissue inside it?

Iris is focused on the animal smuggling that was a side-line of the drug operation and is intent on bringing the criminals to justice. Her animal knowledge helps, but she has no idea who she’s really up against. To trap the killer, she makes the mistake of implying that she knows much more than she really does. Then she must take desperate measures to keep her toddler and herself safe from a career criminal, who is not the least naïve.
Learn more about the book and author at Ann Littlewood's website and blog.

Read--Coffee with a Canine: Ann Littlewood and Murphy.

The Page 69 Test: Did Not Survive.

--Marshal Zeringue