Magazine journalist Kristy Farrell returns in another conservation-conscious detective story by Schmitt (Monkey Business, 2017).
In this sequel, Kristy becomes personally involved in an investigation after being approached by Katie Chandler, her daughter’s best friend. It turns out that Katie’s boyfriend, Sam Wong, has disappeared, and shortly afterward, her co-worker Jack Patterson is found drowned in a local inlet. Katie is also the executor of her grandmother’s will, which left $12 million to be divided among three charities. She’s resolved to donate $6 million to the Clam Cove Aquarium, where she works as a sea-lion trainer. If the aquarium can raise enough money to purchase an adjacent plot of land, they’ll be able to build a rehab center for marine mammals and a research camp. However, a powerful land developer, which happens to be Sam’s employer, is also interested in the property. The local community is divided over the project. When another body is discovered in the aquarium’s sea-snake tank, Kristy becomes more determined than ever to find the murderer. As she investigates, tensions build in her personal life; serious budget cuts loom at her magazine employer, and her husband’s veterinary practice is struggling, due to new competition. And when Kristy’s mother announces her engagement to a mysterious investor, the reporter harbors suspicions about the man’s intentions. Over the course of this latest series installment, Schmitt manages to neatly balance a considerable array of plotlines, while also employing a sufficient amount of misdirection to keep the murderer’s identity uncertain. She provides enough evidence to make events seem reasonably plausible, and her protagonist excels at following every line of logic to its conclusion. The wildlife motif works well, providing a distinctive backdrop to the mystery and a ready supply of aquatic facts. This case also introduces plenty of new characters as others return, inclusing the irascible and incompetent Detective Steve Wolfe.
A lighthearted and pleasant read for mystery and animal aficionados.