The Otter Of Death (A Gunn Zoo Mystery #5), by Betty Webb
This is the point where the Gunn Zoo mysteries stopped being any fun to read. In fact, the political nature of this book made the rest of the series much less enjoyable in context. Sometimes writers forget that they are not only writing for people with their own worldviews and perspectives but for others. The best fictional writing allows readers to appreciate a work regardless of the point of view of the characters because the novelist does such a good job at creating a compelling character that is easy to relate to. Some great novelists do a wonderful job at even making reprehensible characters seem sympathetic. That said, all too many authors, especially contemporary ones, feel that novels are a place where they can beat others over the head with their political worldviews, and that makes for pretty unpleasant writing, as is the case here. When writers forget that there exists a market for mystery novels from people that don’t appreciate leftist worldviews getting crammed down their throat, then perhaps we will see some better ones. As it is, this series is not one I plan on returning to after this volume.
This novel gets kicked off when our dumb and irritating heroine Teddy Bentley manages to uncover a cell phone that leads to the discovery of a dead body while she is doing otter counts. Of course, this act of environmental advocacy means that this novel comes along with some very whiny and strident complaints about fictive global warming. When the novel is focusing on the unpleasant sexual harassment from the first deceased person, or the way in which a young lady with few options to avoid debt for her education serves as a sugar baby, the novel is less unpleasant, but barely less so, as most of this novel spends its time working through the unpleasant corruption of the wealthy, which is made even less pleasant to read by the author’s tedious anti-capitalist bias. Quite frankly, I would have rather read the novel written by this book’s villain than the one we actually got. And I consider it a pretty damning view when the point of view of the villain of this novel is more appealing than the author’s own point of view as expressed through her protagonist mouthpiece. That, though, is a testament of the partisan nature of our times and the cluelessness of the author.
In fact, for genre readers, this book offers a great case study in the failure of genre books to serve as worthwhile entertainment. And that is because the author clearly has an agenda that she will not let go until she pummels you over the head and kills you with it via blunt force trauma. And, on top of this, the author is likely unaware of the fact that this is a deeply alienating book for those who do not agree with the leftist point of view of the author and view climate change fears as gospel truth rather than highly dubious extrapolations. When an author is too busy focusing on an agenda than on writing compelling fiction, one can tell that she is well on her way to losing any sort of chance at a mass audience and leaving herself only with a small echo chamber of those who think as she does. Perhaps this is what the author wants. Perhaps she is tired of being polite to those she does not understand who think differently than she does, but given the way that this book utterly fails to provide enjoyment, one would hope that someone warned her that this book wasn’t a good idea.