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The Otter of Death
July 17, 2018
The Otter of Death A Gunn Zoo Mystery #5
by Betty Webb Poisoned Pen Press Mystery & Thrillers Pub Date 02 May 2018
Betty Webb’s newest Gunn Zoo mystery is frighteningly pertinent in the current commercial environment that pits lovers of nature against those in search of profit despite potential ecological cost. It also tackles the issue of sexual harassment. Despite its weighty background, The Otter of Death is still a cozy, and an appealing, well written one at that.
The annual otter count is vital, as it shows the health of the community and provides information about the impact of pollutants. When zookeeper Theodora “Teddy” Bentley acquires a cell phone from an otter playing with the device she finds a suspicious photograph that looks like it shows a murder in progress. Soon after, the body of Stuart Booth, a local marine biologist, is discovered. His reputation is an unsavory one with numerous allegations of sexual harassment. Suspicion immediately falls on Lila, a young woman whose reputation was ruined when her sexual harrassment claim against Booth was dismissed. Teddy is convinced Lila is innocent putting her at odds with her fiancé Sheriff Joe Rejas. As she digs into the mystery, she upsets a number of rich and powerful people, including the owners of an oil company planning an offshore drilling platform.
In addition to the central mystery, Betty Webb includes plenty of scenes animal lovers will enjoy. I especially loved when Kabuki, a very intelligent snow monkey, successfully launched poo at a set of hecklers. Gunn Zoo is a fascinating place, and the challenges posed by the animals and the zoo visitors are easy to believe.
The Otter of Death is a topical, well plotted cozy that will appeal to animal lovers and mystery lovers alike. It is no surprise that the Gunn Zoo mysteries are so popular.
5 / 5
I received a copy of The Otter of Death from the publisher and Netgalley.com in exchange for an honest review.
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 fiancé, 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.