Tropical birds in a smuggled suitcase. Expensive. Beautiful. Dead. But for field biologist Robyn Devara, this latest grim reminder of the illegal trade in endangered species includes an unexpected surprise--one of the birds is unknown to science.
Hot on the trail of the mysterious macaw, Robyn finds herself stationed at an isolated field camp in the Costa Rican jungle, where she must deal with a research team that includes a former wildlife trafficker, his angry nemesis, sundry wide-eyed graduate students, and a university professor who seems to think that grad students fall below paramecia on the academic tree of life. All this as well as shifty maintenance workers, a sexy project leader, and a shadowy group of armed poachers with itchy trigger fingers. It's certainly an exciting change from routine paperwork. Exciting, that is, until communication with the outside world is cut off, deadly snakes start slithering into cabins, and members of the field team begin to die...
"Karen Dudley draws on her unique experiences as a biologist to whisk her readers to a scientific station in a Costa Rican rain forest, where poisonous snakes, neon spiders, vicious smugglers and a wily killer will keep them up all night. An intelligent and riveting read spiced with the politics of scientific expeditions, choice details for bird lovers and a a nice dollop of sex. Dudley gives us a sleuth we can root for: Robyn Devara--gutsy, smart, committed and passionate."
--Mary Jane Maffini, author of the Camilla MacPhee mysteries
Suggested Book Club Questions for Macaws of Death
- How does the rainforest setting figure as a character in Macaws of Death? Discuss its influence on the narrative.
- In a movie version of Macaws of Death, who do you think should play what roles? Why?
- After Robyn arrives in Costa Rica, she experiences a certain amount of culture shock. Does this affect her judgement? In what ways?
- Each part of the book begins with a quote. How is each one related to its associated section? Do you think the quotes are appropriate? Why or why not?
- Wildlife trafficking in an important element in the novel’s plot. Who does Robyn suspect of trafficking and why? Is trafficking a real clue to the murderer’s identity, or is it a red herring?
- Discuss the role of food in the author’s writing. Why do you think food is so important to Robyn?
- There are two ‘perfume bunnies’ in the novel. What role do they play?
- Robyn’s love life is a little confused, but by the end of the book, she arrives at a decision. Do you agree with her choice? Why or why not?
- Dan and Viviana both warn Robyn about the dangers of a tropical rainforest, yet there are several instances when Robyn forgets their advice. Discuss these scenes and the reasons for her carelessness. What are the consequences of her actions?
- Did you enjoy Macaws of Death? How does it compare to Hoot to Kill and The Red Heron?
- There are two kinds of mysteries: stand-alones and series with a continuing character. Which do you prefer? Why? Could Macaws of Death stand on its own?
- Do you think Robyn grows as a character during the course of the novel? What new things did you learn about her in Macaws of Death?
- Do you think Robyn is a good field scientist? Why or why not?
- Discuss the leadership conflict at Danta. Is Andres a good person to head the project? Why or why not? Who else might make a good leader? Why?
- In what way do gender roles and politics play a part in the novel? What is Robyn’s way of dealing with this? Is it effective?
- In the beginning of the novel, Robyn tells Kelt that she has never visited a tropical rainforest before. Have you ever been to a jungle? If you haven’t, would you want to after reading Macaws of Death? Why or why not?
- What makes a good thriller? Does Macaws of Death meet these requirements? For you, what is the most important part of a mystery (i.e. plot, subplots, clues, red herrings etc.)?
- The subject of ecotourism comes up several times in the novel. Do you think Liz’s concerns about it are justified? Why or why not?
- While researching the book, the author went to Costa Rica and spent some time at a biological research station in the jungle. Did you feel that Macaws of Death was the result of first-person experience? In what way? Do you think the book could have been written without this experience?
- Did you feel that you learned something about wildlife trafficking and rainforest preservation from Macaws of Death? Do you think the book deals effectively with these topics?
- Robyn and Viviana are both women scientists. In what other ways are they similar? How are they dissimilar?
- Did you try to guess ‘whodunit’? Who did you suspect? Why? Were you surprised by the ending?
- Robyn is both a field scientist and an environmentalist. Do you think there is conflict between the two? In what way?
- Robyn is apprehensive about snakes even before she arrives in Costa Rica. Is her anxiety justified? Do you think she overcomes her fears? How do you feel about snakes?
- What other novels can you think of in which the characters enter a dark jungle only to confront the worst of humanity. Do you think Macaws of Death is an effective addition to this subgenre? Why or why not?
- By the end of the book, Robyn is far from ‘civilization’ both physically and psychologically. Discuss.
Karen Dudley has worked in field biology, production art, photo research, palaeo-environmental studies and archaeology. She has written four environmental mysteries and a several wildlife biology books for kids. Her Epikurean Epics, including the Aurora-nominated Food for the Gods, are historical fantasy novels set in ancient Athens. Born in France, she now lives in Winnipeg.Website: www.karendudley.com