Marilyn Victor
Michael Allan Mallory

January, 2011

Author Website
Reviewed by Gary Shulze
From Once Upon a Crime Bookstore
Writing for CrimeSpree Magazine

Snake Jones is back. Following her excellent debut in Victor and Mallory's Death Roll, Snake finds herself embroiled in a dispute between northern Minnesota ranchers and the federally protected gray wolf.

Killer Instinct opens with an old, crusty local yelling across the Last Chance Outfitters store at Snake: "... Shoot 'em all, every last one of 'em. Nothin but varmints… worthless murdering scavengers!" Snake is in the small town of Wolf Lake, Minnesota, gateway to the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness, with her film crew to shoot a segment of Zoofari for the Minnesota Valley Zoo. There's some buzz that Animal Planet may pick it up for syndication. When she and her old college friend Gina Brown later discover four wolf carcasses, shot and hidden in the woods, the old loudmouth from the diner becomes Snake's first suspect. But the old coot is soon eliminated - quite literally - as a suspect, shot by the same rifle that killed the wolves.

More murders and peculiarities ensue, and Snake, even though she can't afford to be distracted from this important film project, can't rest until she gets to the bottom of these mysteries. Ultimately, Snake and her Aussie husband Jeff will need to rely on all the survival instincts and training they have when, deep in the dark interior of Superior National Forest, they find themselves pursued by the ultimate predator: a crazed killer desperate to protect a deadly secret.

Some of my favorite books, and a major reason I enjoy reading, teach me something while I'm being entertained. This book contains a wealth of material on animal behavior. I never knew, for example, that ravens are the only bird that will fly towards a gun shot. They have learned that that's quite possibly where their next meal will be found, thus overcoming what would seem to be a natural instinct to fly away.

In one of those coincidences that happen now and then, the day after I finished reading Killer Instinct, this headline appeared from the Associated Press: "Feds Want Wolf Off Endangered List" (September 14, 2010). We might have had to wait a few years for this new Snake Jones adventure, but you have to admit, it's about as timely as you can get. Killer Instinct is both a great entertainment and a compelling mystery, with a strong sense of place (fans of Kent Krueger take note) and really cool, interesting characters. Marilyn Victor and Michael Allan Mallory have seamlessly combined their voices into a well-tuned and expressive unison.

~Gary Shulze, for Crimespree Magazine

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This page last updated November 30, 2010