Showing posts with label gorilla research. Show all posts
Showing posts with label gorilla research. Show all posts

Wednesday, October 23, 2019

Review of The Only Clue: A Gorilla Novel by Pamela Beason

Review of The Only Clue: A Gorilla Novel by Pamela Beason: Mother Gorilla with Baby
 Image by Curtis Yancey from Pixabay 

The Open House

It was obvious to Grace McKenna that Neema, the mother gorilla, was worried and getting closer to a melt-down. She and her baby Kanoni weren't used to so many humans around.They weren't used to hearing blaring music, seeing and smelling popcorn carts, and having reporters and cameramen constantly in their faces. They really hated the smell of the portable toilets that had been brought into the area surrounding their compound for the day.

Gumu, the huge father gorilla, was the most upset of all. He had retreated to his "nest" --  a bunch of tangled blankets at the top of his two-story enclosure. Although Gumu was twice Neema's size, he was much more afraid of strangers than she was. When he was a baby back in Africa, he had watched helplessly while poachers shot the rest of his family and cut up them into pieces.

Neema, Gumu and Kanoni trusted very few humans. Grace McKenna and her staff and volunteers were about the only humans the gorillas would let get near them. Grace was studying the ability of the gorillas to learn language. Neema knew about 500 words of sign language. She could use her sign language vocabulary intelligently with humans and with her gorilla family.

The local college was funding Grace's studies, and the board had insisted on this Open House as a prerequisite for continuing their funding. Grace had a splitting headache, there were rude children teasing the gorillas, and Grace just wanted the whole event to be over.

She was glad when her boyfriend Detective Matt Finn and his helper finally ushered all the visitors out. They had volunteered to handle security for the event. Matt invited Grace to relax at his place for the night. The staff had a party on their trailer on the compound.

Back in the Gorilla Enclosures

Image by m k from Pixabay 

After the humans were gone, Neema ate some strawberries and wanted to play. She went in search of Gumu, but he wasn't in his nest. So she took Kanoni back to her own nest in the barn to see if Gumu was there. But he wasn't anywhere. Instead all she found was a big wet spot on the floor.

"Creeping closer to the big dark wet, holding Kanoni tight, she looked at the spot out of the corner of her eye. Red wet. She leaned close. Meat smell. She touched her fingers to the red and tasted the wet. Meat wet. Red meat smell. Bad, hurt, she signed."
Where was Gumu? She wondered if Gumu was meat and was never coming back. She turned to the back of the barn and saw the wall was open a crack. It had never been open before. She pushed the wall away, grabbed Kanoni, and went outside to search for Gumu.

The Next Morning

When Grace went to feed the gorillas the next morning, all was quiet in the barn. She called them to breakfast, but no gorillas came. They were gone. Someone had removed the padlock from the outside of the door. Matt began to look for evidence, since the animals could not have escaped by themselves. Then Jon Zyrnek, the staff member who got along best with Gumu, discovered the huge puddle of blood and called them all over.

Matt immediately wanted to put out an all points bulletin, but Grace nixed it. Many of their neighbors in their town of Evansburg opposed having the gorillas in their neighborhood in the first place. They had gotten out once before and they were almost closed down then. Word of the escape getting out would endanger their funding, as well.

Grace finally talked Matt into investigating the the disappearance by himself and the staff promised to keep quiet. They canceled all the volunteer shifts, saying that Jon had the flu and they'd all been exposed. They couldn't chance passing it to the gorillas.  They also made up a story about a valuable missing dog that had been at the open house. They needed to report some case involving an animal to get the blood they had found tested at the lab. Jon and Grace continued to search outside, calling and naming the gorillas' favorite foods, but no gorillas responded.

The Undercurrents

Matt doesn't like Jon because he and the volunteer staff are all part of the Animal Rights Union that has been freeing lab and other animals they believe are mistreated. They've all been arrested and Jon had served time. They had begun their volunteer work with the gorillas as a community service sentence. But they enjoyed the work so much they kept at it.

Matt is sure Jon and the others are involved somehow. The gorillas are very valuable, especially since they can sign and paint. The sale of their paintings has helped fund the work. Jon's father recently got out of prison. Matt also considers him a suspect. 

Grace is worried about whether her gorillas can survive on their own in the woods, if that's where they are. She's convinced at least one of them has been killed. When you read the book, you will also be concerned for them and wonder what happened. I couldn't stop reading.

My Review  

I recommend this book to those who are interested in the intelligence of gorillas and their ability to talk to humans. They would find the book fascinating even if there were no mystery. I read this, the second book in the Neema series, because I had enjoyed the first book so much. Now I see a third book is also available and I plan to read that one, too. I like learning more about the capabilities of gorillas. But I also like trying to solve the mystery.

I would recommend this to any animal lover who likes mysteries  It's full of not only gorillas, but also dogs and Neema's two pet cats. The human characters are believable, though Matt seems to have a stereotyped view of Jon. The animal characters are also well-developed.

I found myself looking for clues right along with the detectives. The author shows us not only what the humans are doing, but also what Neema is doing. We know just enough to hope that the story will end happily, but we still have to wonder until the very end.

You might also be interested in my review of the first book in the series: The Only Witness.

Note: The author may receive a commission from purchases made using links found in this article. “As an Amazon Associate, Ebay (EPN) and/or Esty (Awin) Affiliate, I (we) earn from qualifying purchases.”

Wednesday, June 8, 2016

Book Review of The Only Witness by Pamela Beason

The Only Witness

An infant is abducted in broad daylight. The only witness is a gorilla. Can you imagine how a detective would feel when about to ask a judge for a warrant on the basis of the testimony of a gorilla? Of course, he wouldn't tell the judge anymore than he'd first been told himself -- that the the only witness was a twelve-year-old with the IQ of a five-year-old. As expected, the judge had the same reaction he himself had had -- he wanted to  meet the witness. That's why Detective Matthew Finn had brought the video tape to show the judge if necessary.

Book Review of The Only Witness by Pamela Beason
Photo Courtesy of Pixabayxabay


The Kidnapping                 

Seventeen-year-old single unwed mother Brittany Morgan stops at a convenience store because because she's out of diapers. Her two-month old baby, Ivy Rose, is asleep in her car seat. She doesn't want to wake Ivy, so she carefully locks her car after opening the windows just far enough for the air to flow, but not far enough to reach in. She whispers through the passenger window to Ivy, 'Mama will be right back, Ivy Rose.'

Brittany  notices a tall gray van parked next to her on the right, the kind with mirrored windows that prevent people from looking in. The words "Talking Hands Ranch" were painted on the side. Then she went into the store and bought a few groceries. When she got back to the car, the doors were still locked, but the baby was gone. So was the gray van, but Brittany didn't remember the van at that moment because she was still in shock. She thought some boys standing around smoking might have taken the baby as a joke but they denied it and hadn't seen anyone else with a baby. A woman called  911. Soon Detective Finn was on the scene with  his crew gathering evidence. Brittany was frantic.

Inside the Van

Grace, a research professor at he University of Washington, returned to her van and to Neema, one of the gorillas in her project to whom she was teaching sign language. Unbeknownst to Grace, Neema had seen the kidnapping of the baby. She had signed to herself what was happening as it happened.

When Grace had returned, Neema signs "baby" to her, and then "car." Grace has no idea what Neema is talking about. In intervals Neema signs "Snake make baby cry." Grace thought Neema was calling her a snake, a word Neema hated. Neema continued to sign: "Baby cry, bad blue snake". But then Neema remembered she wanted a banana and the conversation took a different turn.

Later, Grace found out about the abduction, but still did not make the connection. It took her days and repeated signs from Neema before she made an anonymous call to the police. She remembered she had been at the Food Mart about that time.

The Investigation

Before Grace finally called Finn was not getting far in the investigation.  He'd learned that Brittany had been in a program for unwed mothers at her high school, the Sister Mothers Trust program. They had a support website for the girls in the class called YoMama where the girls could communicate. Brittany's computer had been taken in to custody, since she was the first one the police suspected, along with the baby's father Charlie, who was the son of the County Executive. The police certainly did not want to get Travis Wakefield's name into the news over this.

So far, the police had not learned much that helped. It was only after Grace called with the anonymous tip that Finn began to make progress. Brittany, had, meanwhile, remembered seeing the van and  described it to the police. By tracing Grace's call from a pay phone and tracking down the van, he was finally able to find  Grace's compound and discover that his only witness was Neema. In the phone call Grace had only said her ward told her that a man with a snake bracelet took the baby to a green car. Grace had said her ward was twelve and had the mentality of a five-year-old. Finn still thought Grace was passing on the words of a mentally retarded child witness. Finn had been  crushed when Grace said he could not contact Neema and then hung up.

Finn Meets Neema

Finn finally tracks down Grace's location just after she has received a letter from the University of Washington that the project is closing and the gorillas will be sold at auction. When Finn unexpectedly appears, Grace is crying. He still has no idea Neema is a gorilla. When Grace finally allows him to meet her, he still believes he is meeting a child. He has even brought a flower to try to win her over. When he first lays eyes on Neema,  you can just imagine what went through his mind.

You'll have to read the book to see that rather humorous scene. It is the first of many interviews Grace tapes. Neema's testimony,  though not presented formally in court, does help solve the case and the cases of two other missing children of mothers who were in the Sister Mothers Trust classes. I'm not going to spoil the book for you by telling you any more. I'm anxious to read the sequel. The best deal is the Kindle box set for the two books.

I would recommend this book to those interested in inter-species communication, gorillas, and police procedural mysteries. One thing I appreciated about this book in addition to the story itself was that no one got killed -- no gory scenes. The emphasis was on the police work and the human-gorilla interaction.

Book Review of The Only Witness by Pamela Beason
Gorilla Photo Courtesy of Pixabay

 Could this Really Happen?

It is plausible.  I think the author may have been influenced by the work of Dr. Francine Penny Patterson at the Gorilla Foundation. She is best known as the mentor of the famous Koko the gorilla, to whom she has been teaching American Sign Language, as part of her gorilla research. The project began in 1972 at the San Francisco Zoo. Since then it has progressed and moved to larger spaces, and finally to a large compound in Hawaii, but it appears the foundation is losing its lease and will have to raise enough money to buy the land if they are to stay there.  Koko will turn  45 on July 4, 2016.

Here is some insight into the relationship between Koko and Dr. Patterson. One can easily see how Pamela Beason might see Dr. Patterson and Koko as models for Grace and Neema in The Only Witness.

In this video, you will meet Koko.

In this video you  will watch a conversation between Koko and Dr. Patterson.

What do you think? Would you consider a signing gorilla like Neema a capable of being a credible witness?

For more information about  Koko, try one of these. You will see more options when you click through, both in books and DVD's. Koko A Talking Gorilla is a DVD.

Note: The author may receive a commission from purchases made using links found in this article. “As an Amazon Associate, Ebay (EPN) and/or Esty (Awin) Affiliate, I (we) earn from qualifying purchases.”

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