Life behind those zoo cages is every bit as tense as life inside.
Zookeepers Iris Oakley and Denny Stellar are called out to a remote drug bust to rescue some exotic animals. When they arrive, they find not the pets they expected but many ailing smuggled parrots and tortoises, apparently another moneymaking scheme for the violently anti-government Tiptons. Although they raised and sold marijuana for years, the Tiptons have recently branched out to cooking meth, and it’s a struggle for Iris and Danny to decontaminate the tortoises before taking them to the zoo. At the site, they discover the body of the Tiptons’ adopted teen daughter, a former prostitute chosen to marry one of the Tipton sons. As they leave, they’re ambushed by Father Tipton and the sons, Jeff and Tom, who want their birds back. Despite Iris’ best attempts at CPR, the old man has a heart attack and dies. When Jeff and Tom break into her house asking about their father’s last words, Iris and her son flee to her parents for safety. Denny, who had once dated Iris, recently dumped her best friend, Marcie, whose difficulty handling the breakup adds more stress to Iris’ life. Things get still worse when Denny is shot, forcing Iris to do more sleuthing on her own. Though she finds them both attractive, Iris even suspects the kindly dog warden and the charming reporter she met at the crime scene. Evidently someone who’s noticed that Father Tipton was bailed out of jail with some gold coins is on the trail of the whole cache.
Former zookeeper Littlewood, who certainly knows her animals, adds an informative picture of life behind the scenes at the zoo to Iris and Denny’s third case (Did Not Survive, 2010, etc.).