In Betty Jean Craige’s sixth Witherston Murder Mystery, Life and Death at Zoo Arroyo, Jorge and Jaime Arroyo own a zoo dedicated to rehabilitating wild animals and restoring endangered species. A bizarre set of events puts Zoo Arroyo in the news. A stranger dies in the wolves’ enclosure. A wolf whelps a wolf-wolverine chimera. A bear delivers a bear-wolf chimera.
Are these events related to a beautiful scientist’s ambition to win a prize for biological innovation? Is the genetic engineer enamored of her responsible for the appropriation of the animals’ wombs? In Life and Death at Zoo Arroyo, Jorge and Jaime wonder: Is nature in the twenty-first century man-made?
Nature in the twenty-first century will be a nature that we make; the question is the degree to which this molding will be intentional or unintentional, desirable or undesirable. --Daniel B. Botkin, Discordant Harmonies, 1990
(Cover photo of raccoon by Chuck Murphy)
Reviewed by Vincent Dublado for Readers' Favorite - 5 Stars
Life and Death at Zoo Arroyo: A Witherston Murder Mystery by Betty Jean Craige centers on a zoo owned and operated by thirty-year-old identical twin brothers, Dr. Jorge Arroyo and Dr. Jaime Arroyo. More than just a zoo, the brothers are also dedicated to wildlife rehabilitation and restoration of rare or endangered species. Jorge is a vet while Jaime is a wildlife geneticist.
Things are about to take a different turn when an unidentified man is reported to have been attacked by wolves at the zoo but was alive when shot in the back of the head at close range. While this murder is being investigated, Garrison Tucker, author and animal rights activist, was shot outside his home. It appears that these two murders are connected, and they have something to do with breeding and selling hybrids and chimeras for the sake of prestige.
The plotline becomes more intriguing. The murders and their investigation will give you closure, and whatever happens to the main characters at the end deserve it. What we are dealing with in Life and Death at Zoo Arroyo are two important issues that Betty Jean Craige manages to fit perfectly into her murder mystery: We are intrigued by the two murders, and at the same time, we are pushed into thinking about the moral implications of genetic experimentation with animals. Craige’s work fills us with curiosity by her intelligent handling of these two subjects.
I finished reading Life and Death at Zoo Arroyo feeling satisfied and assured because the story has fairly explored different angles of material and perspectives of narration. It is a story that sets the bar when it comes to mystery murder tales.