An aspiring Long Island journalist probes a killing at a zoo.
Freed from two boring decades as a high school English teacher, Kristy Farrell stands on the brink of success at Animal Advocate. To convince editor Olivia Johnson to make her job as temporary feature writer permanent, all Kristy has to do is kill her latest assignment on breeding endangered species in captivity. Too bad a real killer with a grudge against Rocky Cove Zoo director Arlen McKenzie steps in Kristy’s path, knocking off the publicity-mad bureaucrat with an injection of venom from a Russell’s viper. Lots of folks hated McKenzie, including his wife, Amanda Devereux; his mistress, zoo PR coordinator Ginger Hart; wildlife nutritionist Linda Sancho; and Saul Mandel, curator of mammals. But Detective Steve Wolfe zeroes in on herpetologist Tim Vanikos, who also happens to be Kristy’s brother. McKenzie had been threatening to downsize Tim, and losing his job would jeopardize his marriage to ambitious Barbara, who has a taste for sparkly things in small boxes. Tim has a key to the rain forest exhibit, where McKenzie was killed. The herpetologist also has ready access to snake venom. His indictment looks like a done deal unless his sister can come up with a plausible alternative to wave under Wolfe’s skeptical nose.
Despite its title, Schmitt’s debut offers few chuckles and fewer simians: the primates whose cages Kristy rattles are strictly human. Reptile and bird fans may enjoy the peeks into a zoo’s handling of its less humanoid residents.