Virgil Flowers, of Minnesota’s Bureau of Criminal Apprehension, pivots from dognapping (Field of Prey, 2014, etc.) to a catnapping whose victims are really big cats.
It’s just as illegal in China as it is in the rest of the world to deal in so-called natural medicines derived from slain wild animals, but it’s much more common to ignore the Chinese laws, as California mobster Zhang Min does when he hires Winston Peck VI, an M.D. barred from practicing since he groped one too many unconscious patients, to steal a pair of Amur tigers from the Minnesota Zoo, kill them, and mine their bodies for all manner of nostrums. The theft, for which Peck brings in the none-too-bright fraternal pair Hayk and Hamlet Simonian, goes off without a hitch, and one of the cats is soon ready to be rendered, a process whose unlovely effects Sandford describes in exquisite detail. But when Virgil, called in to investigate, finds Hamlet’s fingerprint in a place where it definitely shouldn’t be, Peck begins cutting his losses by eliminating his confederates, and the race is on: can Virgil find anyone whose evidence against Peck will stand up before Peck puts paid to the informant? Several subplots, from an animal rights activist’s vendetta against a dealer in animal products and parts to the beating of Frankie Nobles, Virgil’s current lover, are less interesting than the main event and therefore come across as padding. But Peck, who wonders if he’s a psychopath or a spree killer and decides that for him, “killing was simply a work-related task,” is well worth your time.
Perfect entertainment for readers whose hearts skip a beat when they worry that the hero won’t be in time to rescue that remaining tiger from certain death.