Book Review and Excerpt: Tangled Ties to a Manatee – Kalen Cap

Tangled Ties to a Manatee
About Tangled Ties to a Manatee (2012)

Tangled Ties to a ManateeA pregnant manatee is rare at any zoo, and a first for the Grove City Zoo in Ohio. Ankh is a delight to zoo patrons, a concern to its staff, and the unintentional victim of two con men. She has no idea how many human relationships, problems, and dreams tangle around her.

Jerry is a young developmentally disabled man who happily follows Ankh’s pregnancy on the zoo’s webcam. He has a shy crush on Janelle, a pretty college student who volunteers for his group home’s outings to the zoo.

Jerry’s Aunt Vera also loves nature and runs an environmental retreat center. But all is not well, with Vera or the center. The center needs money and is under investigation as a cult.

Amid their college studies, Janelle and her friend Cecily try to help. Instead, Janelle re-awakens an old obsession in Vera when an innocent tarot reading hints at how the center might be saved.

Two bumbling con men are attempting to sabotage the region’s electrical grid as part of a lucrative scheme. But Jerry accidentally gets in their way and becomes their captive.

When the con men surprisingly succeed in bringing the grid down, it spells danger for Ankh, her unborn pup, and the many people tied to them both. With investigations of their own, Cecily and Janelle try to untangle it all to find Jerry, save a manatee’s life, and rescue Vera from herself.

Tangled Ties to a Manatee is a humorous crime thriller with environmental themes that is revealed through multiple points of view. The novel emphasizes college-aged characters, though not all, such as the developmentally disabled ones, are in college.

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Review: Tangled Ties to a Manatee

I do like books with curious titles and this debut offering from Kalen Cap is no exception. This comedy thriller is built around the manatee of the title that has the luxury of being safely in a tank while outside the rest of the world is very complex indeed. Not that the manatee has an easy time either!

Tangled Ties to a Manatee follows the viewpoints of several characters that are linked to Ankh, a pregnant manatee that is kept at the Grove City Zoo under careful observation. Staff that deal with closely with Ankh and those that are friends, family and associates all feature in this intricate novel. Leeanne is the lead veterinarian for Ankh while her ex-husband Steven is a lecturer at the local college. Some of Steven’s students, such as Cecily (who has a crush on him), and Janelle come into the story. A coffee shop is also key to the narrative with the young but slow Jerry playing a pivotal role as do his aunts Clara and Vera, the latter who runs the Environmental Retreat Centre (ERC). The ERC is under investigation by two women – Elise and Sharon. Elise is undercover as a member of staff in the ERC while Sharon works at the coffee shop. Add to this two men – Stan and Craig – who plan to blackout the area and you have a very busy plot to keep up with.

Due to the wide range of characters Tangled Ties to a Manatee jumps around a lot and you’ll have to get used to many characters. Vera that runs the ERC is the aunt of Jerry who cleans at the coffee shop and has a crush on one of the students Janelle. Other staff at the ERC include Emmett who is something of a ladies’ man and has been sleeping with colleague Helen but now Elise, who is using him as part of her investigation. At the coffee shop Sharon is proving popular in her new role and is liked by both Jerry and Mitch, who is the brother of Steven. With me so far? It may seem daunting initially but you soon get used to the characters. Steven’s students become integral to the story. Cecily is an older student who has a crush on her teacher and doesn’t feel she fits in with the others. Janelle invites Vera to a tarot reading and when going through the cards leaves Vera intrigued about who will take over the ERC after her, especially when mentioning it is someone that knows no pain.

While all is not what it seems at ERC and the company is being investigated, there are Stan and Craig who are up to their own little scheme. Planning to cause a blackout their plans are thrown into turmoil when they are spotted by Jerry who they quickly take hostage. Friends and family become frantic in searching for Jerry, while Stan and Craig try to complete their plan, and the manatee Ankh continues with her long pregnancy. There are also some relationships to resolve here. Cecily has a crush on Steven but she is also fond of a student, Gavin. Steven still longs for ex-wife Leeanne but perhaps a new romance awaits him when he draws the attention of undercover investigator Sharon. Add Emmett to the equation with his relationships with Helen and Elise and things are all set to turn pretty nasty.

Tangled Ties to a Manatee jumps around a lot and sometimes it not always easy to keep track of all the characters. I felt by the end that I knew most of them well but not all as well as I would have liked. The plot is intriguing throughout with Stan and Craig’s blackout scheme not to mention the investigation of the ERC where not all the staff are as innocent as they initially seem. The story rounds off nicely with an epilogue that gives us a summary of each of the main characters in the aftermath of this strange cauldron of deceit and intrigue.

Tangled Ties to a Manatee is a light-hearted thriller with a large cast of characters and some interesting plot threads for the reader to unravel. Although not all of the characters felt as fleshed out as they could have been this complex narrative was handled very well and is certainly worth a look. I’m not telling you how the manatee gets on though. You’ll have to read and find out for yourself.

Verdict: 4/5

(Book source: reviewer received a copy from Goddess Fish in exchange for a fair and honest review)



“What we gonna do with him?” Craig asked.

Stan held the door open, motioning for Craig to carry their intruder inside. I’m glad we’re at this site.

Another retired hub station was a few miles away. That station’s maintenance was scheduled for Monday and Thursday, and Stan originally planned to use that location. But, with the forecasted weather, the current station, with its maintenance on Wednesday and Friday, was proving the better choice. Particularly now, since it had a second building where they could stow their intruder. The retired grid hub station was used for remote relayed processing, so there wouldn’t likely be any surprise visits by the electric company before Wednesday. Stan figured they’d be long gone by then.

Craig took the load inside and turned back to Stan.

“We’ll put him in the basement,” Stan said.

“There’s a basement?”

“No, I’m going to dig one while you hold him. Of course, there’s a basement.” Stan flipped the light switch and led the way down the steps inside. The basement had a storage area and what had been a break room, complete with a cot, and adjoining bathroom. Craig followed him into the break room, and Stan motioned to the cot. Craig let the guy fall there with a thump.

“Easy! Let’s get the sack off him,” Stan said. The two men pulled the burlap off their surprise guest. They both leaned over, peering at him.

“I know him,“ Craig said.

“You think you know everybody.”

“No, really. Can’t remember where I saw him, though.”

Stan handed his partner a couple lengths of cord. Craig set the intruder upright and proceeded to bind his hands and feet.

About Kalen Cap

Kalen CapKalen Cap is a writer living in Columbus, Ohio. Active in a variety of causes, particularly with regard to the environment, he often brings such concerns into his fiction writing.

Tangled Ties to a Manatee is his debut novel.

He has had poetry published and several plays, both one act and full-length, produced locally. Two short stories have been published as well. “Feral” is a short story published in Off the Rocks, v. 14, ed Allison Fradkin, NewTown Writers Chicago, 2010, pp. 119-126. “Transforming Oracle” is a self-published short story available at Smashwords.

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Dave Brown

I was born in Barnsley, South Yorkshire, England and have always been a bookworm and enjoyed creative writing at school. In 1999 I created the Elencheran Chronicles and have been writing ever since. My first novel, Fezariu's Epiphany, was published in May 2011. When not writing I'm a lover of films, games, books and blogging. I live in Barnsley, with my wife, Donna, and our six cats - Kain, Razz, Buggles, Charlie, Bilbo and Frodo.
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  1. I think it's good sometimes to err on the side of having too much going on in a story, rather than too little. It sounds like a good read!

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