The story’s venue appealed to me. Initially as a volunteer at the Minnesota Zoo and winding up as a consultant for Disney’s Animal Kingdom, I’ve spent time in and around zoos. In between came animal businesses and odd little assignments such as rounding up African geese to be shipped to Sacramento and prairie dogs for Jack Hanna.
Animals also feature in my writing… alligators, venomous snakes, a scorpion… Okay, okay, I don’t do cat cosies. I consider a zoo at night a brilliant setting for a thriller. Fierce Kingdom isn’t a mystery, but it’s definitely a crime story.
One little aspect of Fierce Kingdom especially amused me. The protagonists, Joan and her 4-year-old Lincoln, hole up in the porcupine enclosure, sans porcupine.
Likely they would have been safe with a porcupine in residence. I’ve held the Minnesota Zoo’s porcupine on my lap, petted him… carefully. In size and weight, picture a medium size dog like a sheltie, and you’re in the ballpark… or zoological park. The biggest problem was that Porky fell giddily in love with one of the female volunteers to the point worried zoo officials forbade her seeing him. Ah, young, cross-species love thwarted.
The New York Times wrote an excellent review of Fierce Kingdom, so I won’t attempt a reprise. Their review mentions clichés avoided and a couple of times I had found myself praying, Please don’t let this devolve into yet another husband-as-betraying-bastard-bad-guy. Whew, the author dodged that meme.
The bad guys are intriguing. My one complaint is I would like to know more about the primary baddie who engineered the massacre. Destin remains a shadowy, virtually unknown figure of uncertain motivation.
Worth mentioning are two other well-drawn heroines. Young Kailynn touched me. Although she saved lives of strangers, she had to be aware Joan, while helping her, would sacrifice Kailynn in an instant to save her son.
The other heroine is Mrs Powell, Margaret, a seasoned school teacher. If you’re going up against bad guys, you’d want Mrs Powell on your side.
The book is paced so you can read it in real time, assuming you don’t speed-read, In other words, the action spans about three hours, approximately average reading speed.
Fierce Kingdom strikes me as particularly cinematic. I could picture this as a film, a thriller for adults or a more moderate version for children and porcupines.
|You’re bound to enjoy next week’s article.|
The protagonist makes several references to a mid-1980s television spy series, Scarecrow and Mrs King. I’ve spent decades without a television, so the program was unknown to me. Gin Phillips so managed to generate sufficient interest, I streamed the first (out of four) seasons.
For those unfamiliar with the series, next Sunday I offer my own condensed version. It will be fun, I promise.