With the title of Death Roll and a picture graphic of an open crocodile jaw on its cover, it would not be giving too much away to say that a giant reptile kills someone in this book. Minnesota authors, Marilyn Victor and Michael Allan Mallory, guide the reader into a unique setting for a murder mystery—a zoo—and introduce us to a new kind of sleuth—a zookeeper.
Victor and Mallory bring real-life experience to their zoological setting. Victor is a volunteer at the Minnesota Zoo and Mallory is a member of the American Association of Zoo Keepers.
Death Roll, Marilyn Victor and Michael Allan Mallory. The Thomson Corporation, U.S.A., May 2007. 348 pp.
The cast of characters, and hence, suspects, are all introduced neatly in the beginning of the story as they atten a social event at the zoo. The main character and heroine is Lavender “Snake” Jones, who is married to another zookeeper, Jeff Jones.
I was distracted by details in character descriptions. Jeff Jones reminded me of the late Steve Irwin, the famous “Crocodile Hunter,” who died a year ago from a stingray’s barb to his heart. Shaggy, whose dialog included the word “dude,” conjured up the cartoon Scooby Doo. A police detective’s name is Ole, which made me suspect there was a “Lena” right around the corner. Mercifully, there was not. Those details might be insignificant, but they distracted me from the story.
In spite of those little distractions, I enjoyed the book. The story kept me interested cover to cover. The revelation of the murderer was not a shock, but neither was it a giveaway. We mystery readers like to try to figure out “who-dunnit” by piecing together clues in the book. I missed the important embedded clue and that is a credit to the story weaving skills of Victor and Mallory.
Death Roll is a fun read. The action is well paced and the plot does not sag. Most of the characters have depth, so readers feel like they are getting to know new neighbors. What makes this book come alive is that the scene of the crime is our very own Minnesota Zoo. The imagination fills in more detail about a place when a person has actually been there.
I hope Snake finds another mystery to solve soon.