The Sloth's Eye
Review: The aftermath of the murder of the publicity director for a mid-Atlantic zoo inadvertently draws in small mammal keeper Hannah Lilly, who'd rather be interacting with animals than people — well, maybe the hunky blue-eyed, sandy blond Chris deserves some attention — in The Sloth's Eye, the first in a potential series to feature this character by Linda Lombardi.
On the day after an elephant pumpkin stomping, an event held to celebrate Halloween for the zoo's visitors, Victor Reynard is found in the elephant enclosure, a pumpkin wrapped around his smashed head. It is unlikely that Victor unknowingly wandered into the area, therefore the authorities — and other zoo employees — believe one of their own may be the culprit. But suspects are few, and, not unlike the mammals that Hannah keeps track off, they are all accounted for at the time of the murder. Then one of sloths in Hannah's care goes missing. It has to be on the grounds somewhere, but it is her responsibility to find it … especially if she wants to add a rare wombat to the collection she manages, something Allison Craine, the zoo's director, has promised. With everyone on edge, and every minor occurrence at the zoo being escalated into a major incident, Hannah won't feel comfortable doing her job until the missing sloth is found … and Victor's killer is identified.
The murder mystery plot of The Sloth's Eye is both topical and well developed and includes a number of credible suspects to keep readers guessing. How the resolution to the crime — the whodunit, if you will — plays out in the end is somewhat unexpected, though admittedly "in character", as it were. More notable, however, is the joy the author, a former zookeeper herself, clearly felt in writing this book. Consider this passage from early in the book:
Finally the door opened, and the crowd oohed. Out came the mother elephant and the two-year-old baby, who was really the one everyone had come to see. Grownup elephant pumpkin stomping was one thing, but baby elephant pumpkin stomping was almost too much to stand. You could feel everyone tense up with anticipation of nearly intolerable cuteness as he trotted across the yard.
Hannah is less of an investigator than she is an eager, wide-eyed bystander (if also an unwilling participant) to the events going on around her, but that doesn't lessen her appeal at all as an amateur sleuth. Indeed, as an example of her character, her qualified political correctness is refreshingly honest. During a slideshow presentation on the importance of preserving the Amazon rain forest, she muses, "I would only adopt an acre that had some of that organic fair-trade chocolate growing on it." It's easy to relate to her — both her personal strengths and weaknesses; love of animals being one of the former, co-worker Chris being one of the latter — and thus feel part of narrative.
The Sloth's Eye is a solid introduction to Hannah Lilly, and readers would most certainly welcome a return visit to her zoo.
Acknowledgment: Linda Lombardi provided an ARC of The Sloth's Eye for this review.
Review Copyright © 2011 — Hidden Staircase Mystery Books — All Rights Reserved
Location(s) referenced in The Sloth's Eye:
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The Sloth's Eye by Linda Lombardi — A Hannah Lilly Mystery
Publisher: Five Star
Publication Date: May 2011
List Price: $25.95
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Page Author: Lance Wright
Site Publisher: Mysterious Reviews
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