In addition to writing her series of "zoo-dunits," author Ann Littlewood is passionate about the natural world. She hopes to inspire readers to care about environmental issues in her mystery novels, which realistically depict the life of a zookeeper; Littlewood herself spent 12 years as a zookeeper at the Oregon Zoo!

The latest "zoo-dunit" is called Endangered (and it's on sale today!). The third in the series, it's about zookeeper Iris Oakley, who gets a lot more than she bargained for when she shows up to help at a drug bust (presumably to take care of abandoned pets) . . .

Here, Littlewood tells us about how her goals as a writer include more than just selling books. She wants to encourage her readers to care about the natural world.

Passionate plotting
guest post by Ann Littlewood

My first zoo mysteries, Night Kill and Did Not Survive, showed how a small zoo operates from an animal keeper’s perspective, based on my 12 years at Oregon Zoo. Worked into these “zoo-dunits” is the natural history of both exotic and native animals. I think this is fascinating stuff and I love sharing it. I admit to an ulterior motive—being intrigued by the natural world is the first step in caring for it.

Endangered, just published, also includes cool tidbits about animals, but ventures further into a major, if little-known, conservation issue—the world-wide devastation of tortoises for the dinner pot and for pets. Iris Oakley, zookeeper, sets out to rescue abandoned pets after a drug bust and instead finds smuggled tortoises, part of the enormous world trade in wild animals. It really pisses her off.

That’s not all Endangered is about. You get a creepy farm in remote Washington State, a toxic and dangerous family, a mysterious girl (dead), mandrill monkeys, even buried treasure. Iris yearns to strike that blow for conservation, but first she has to keep her toddler safe and herself alive—not easy when a killer believes she knows more than she really does.

I’m gambling that incorporating my passions leads to a more vivid, engaging novel than one devoid of real issues. Many prominent mystery authors address class and race in their work. Others create sympathetic protagonists with mental illnesses or physical handicaps. Environmental issues should fit under this umbrella as well, right?

Entertaining or oppressive? A bold step or timid? Spurs readers to action or not? Or am I over-thinking this entirely? Take a look at Endangered and let me know.

Thank you, Ann! For more on Endangered, visit Ann’s website.

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