Portland author Ann Littlewood has the right to feel proud about Endangered, the third book in her Iris Oakley series. Not only does it pass along an important message about the vicious trafficking in rare animals that goes on, but there's a great mystery story as well.
Iris Oakley has matured. She is still passionate about animals, which is a good thing for an assistant zoo keeper. Still quick to anger, still prone to dangling a foot out of her mouth -- actually, more like a toe these days -- but now she's more grounded because of her two-year-old son. (That job is harder because her husband, with whom she was just reuniting after an estrangement, was murdered. The pregnancy she subsequently discovered certainly was not planned.) Then she stumbles upon illegal animal sales and murder, and chaos moves in.
Iris' zoo sends her to pick up some exotic birds and tortoises after the arrest of the Tiptons, the people who were trying to sell them. The Tiptons were also growing marijuana, cooking meth, and burying lots of secrets.
During the course of saving the animals, Iris is attacked by the Tiptons, somehow recently released on bail. She's there when Pa Tipton dies during the course of the attack and hears his last words, which showed more regard for his pet macaws than his lumbering sons or invalid wife.
Iris accidentally triggers the interest of people who want what she has. But what exactly does she have? Why would they break into her house? How did they know where she lived? Why would someone try to break into the zoo? Is her son, Robby, in danger?
Ken, an animal control worker, sympathizes and tries to help. Craig, a reporter, sympathizes and tries to help. Her parents and fellow zoo workers sympathize and try to help. Neal, her cold and enigmatic boss, tries to help. On balance, however, the people who don't want to help her dangerously outweigh the people who do.
Littlewood has given us Iris' familiar passion and smart-alecky sense of humor, and added the compassion of a mother and loneliness of a widow. Iris faces more of her flaws and bravely continues to put one foot in front of the other. She seeks justice in her stubborn, one-track-minded way. This depth of character becomes Iris and lends power to an interesting and exciting story.