Saturday, January 03, 2009

Mystery Book Review: The Anteater of Death by Betty Webb

Mysterious Reviews, mysteries reviewed by the Hidden Staircase Mystery Books, is publishing a new review of The Anteater of Death by Betty Webb. For our blog readers, we are printing it first here in advance of its publication on our website.

The Anteater of Death by Betty Webb

by
A Theodora "Teddy" Bentley Zoo Mystery

Poisoned Pen Press (Hardcover)
ISBN-10: 1-59058-560-7 (1590585607)
ISBN-13: 978-1-59058-560-3 (9781590585603)
Publication Date: December 2008
List Price: $24.95

Review: Betty Webb has penned a creative and fun mystery in The Anteater of Death, the first in her Zoo Mystery series. On the lighter side, the book has good humor and some laugh-out loud funny lines. I hadn’t realized a zoo would make such a fabulous setting for a mystery, and Webb clearly did her research, taking advantage of all the atmosphere a zoo offers. We learn about monkeys, wolves and giant anteaters in general as well as individual critters such as Makeba, a giraffe who gives birth to a healthy baby; Cisco, the alpha male wolf; and Carlos, the magpie jay who, for some unknown reason, wants Teddy for his avian mate.

Teddy, a wonderful protagonist, has a down-to-earth attitude, a generous heart and a love of animals. Dumped by her ex, she struggles with the idea of getting involved again, especially with Sheriff Joe Rejas who broke her heart in high school. Or was it just that her mother (“don’t call me mother, it’s too age specific”) shipped her off to finishing school in Virginia. Her mother, Caroline (Carol) Piper Bentley Mallory Huffgraf Petersen, I lost track of the number of husbands, wants Teddy to be more like her so they can go to the spa together, shop and double date, an idea that makes Teddy shudder. She has a love-hate relationship with her over-protective mother who tells her to quit her job every time something happens at the zoo. So the dead body in the anteater’s pen has Carol all riled up.

Teddy vows to protect not only Lucy, but also someone else who the police have wrongly accused of the murder, and she’ll do just about anything to that end, even dating the smarmy zoo director. Remember that generous heart I mentioned?

Webb paces the novel beautifully, dispensing details judiciously, so we don’t learn too much too quickly. She writes vivid descriptions and strong characters, many of whom I’m sure we will get to know better in future books. I haven’t read Webb’s Desert series, so I can’t make that comparison but The Anteater of Death sits high on my list of series to follow, right up their with ’s China Bayles series. I look forward to reading the next Zoo Mystery tale as soon as possible.

Special thanks to Katherine Petersen for contributing her review of The Anteater of Death and to Poisoned Pen Press for providing a copy of the book for the review.

Review Copyright © 2009 — Katherine Petersen — All Rights Reserved — Reprinted with Permission

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Synopsis (from the publisher): But if Lucy, the pregnant Giant Anteater from , didn’t kill the man found dead in her enclosure, who did? California zookeeper Teddy Bentley must find the real murderer before her furry friend is shipped off to another zoo in disgrace.

Then another human bites the dust, the monkeys riot, and the wolves go nuts. Things get worse when the snooty folks at Gunn Landing Harbor attempt to evict Teddy from the Merilee, her beloved houseboat. That’s just the beginning. Her father, on the lam from the Feds for embezzling millions, gets targeted by a local gangster; and Caro, Teddy’s socialite mother, a former beauty queen who loathes Teddy’s dangerous job, starts introducing her to “eligible bachelors.” But Teddy has already given her heart to Sheriff Joe Rejas, a migrant worker’s son. Caro is not pleased.

Zoo life, animal lore, and the leaky ups and downs of Central Coast California houseboat living create a thrilling backdrop for murder.

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