Deadly Kingdom: The Book of Dangerous Animals

This is the kind of book you don’t give to people like my mother who gravitate toward thinking the worst of any situation. That cute little dog over there? A killer. What about those charming circus elephants? Murderers. And don’t even think that a mere butterfly is safe…

In Deadly Kingdom (Dial Press), author Gordon Grice artfully reminds us all that animals – including those seemingly domesticated ones – are truly wild and are often ready to pounce, maim, dismember, eat and kill us humans.  Carefully weaving together facts, statics, first person experiences and even old legends, Grice pens an unsentimentallook at these human/animal encounters where Homo sapiens don’t end up as top dog. There’s a lovely humor to the book amongst the grisly details; Grice tells us that his obsession with the menace and beauty of animals began when he was six-years-old and a cougar wandered onto his family’s farm with deadly results.

But it’s not just the obvious critters that Grice examines. Yes, there are sections on bears, wolves and spiders, but he also investigates worms, birds, rodents and even deer – the book easily serves as a resource guild for any naturalist-in-training. As a nature teacher with an Edwin Gorey streak, Grice offers up some fun facts:  rabies kill more than 50,000 people a year, birds are important vectors of disease and that our closest cousin, the chimpanzee, is the most dangerous of all apes you’re apt to meet in the wild.

Sure, Deadly Kingdom is one big cautionary tale, but, moreover, it’s a clever, intelligent book that actually makes one appreciate the diversity of nature, especially its ability to protect and defend itself. You’ll look at Fido and Fifi with a new-found respect. Guaranteed.

— Brenda Rees, editor