Wednesday, March 13, 2013

Book Review: The Mournful Teddy by John J. Lamb (Bear Collector's Mysteries #1)

Stars: 5 out of 5
Pros: Suspenseful story that's fun to read.
Cons: Too much character stuff in the first chapter.
The Bottom Line:
Data dump first chapter
But story picks up from there
And is so much fun

This Debut Didn't Leave Me Mournful

The Mournful Teddy is the first book in what promises to be a wonderful series. It's a unique blend of police procedural and cozy, but it works well.

Brad Lyon enjoyed his life as a San Francisco homicide cop until he was shot in the line of duty. But being forced to retire early has its perks. He and his wife Ashleigh have moved across the country to Virginia and they have begun to indulge in their hobby of teddy bear collecting and making. They are planning on exhibiting at the Shenandoah Valley Teddy Bear Extravaganza, and one of Ashleigh's designs has a chance of winning the design contest.

But the day of the event gets off to a poor start. Brad finds a man floating face down in the Shenandoah River. His trained eye immediately spots signs that the man was strangled before being dumped in the river. However, the sheriff refuses to classify the death as anything other then an accident.

Meanwhile, the teddy bear show is going well. The highlight of the event is supposed to be a charity auction of a collectible Mournful Teddy. This bear was made in limited numbers to commemorate the sinking of the Titanic, and modern collectors will pay through the nose to have it. However, the bear never makes it to the event. Are the two connected? What will Brad find when he takes the investigation into his own hands?

I must admit, part way through the first chapter, I was wondering what I had gotten myself into. The first few pages are nothing but biography of Brad and Ashleigh. While we needed some of the info, I was getting a bored. But, before the chapter is over, Brad finds the body, and things take off. The tension builds for much of the rest of the book. I was actually quite nervous for Brad's safety, and had a hard time putting it down. The ending was a little drawn out, but it hardly dampened my enjoyment at all.

As I mentioned before, this book mixes police procedural and cozy into one story. Brad is pursuing the case as an amateur. Yet he is still concerned with properly gathering evidence for the courts. Since a former police detective writes the book, there are some fun comments about evidence collecting on TV verses real life.

The characters are wonderful. Brad and Ashleigh are wonderful. Their relationship is sweet, sometimes a little overly sweet, but never for more then a paragraph or two. Brad has a great sense of sarcasm, and his comments in dialog and narration often made me laugh. Some other interesting characters are introduced that I hope to get to know better in further volumes. Even the villain has some redeeming value.

The writing in the book is polished, and I had no problem picturing the characters, locations, and events.

The Mournful Teddy sounded promising from the cover, and it exceeded my hopes. I can't wait until the next book in the series is released.

If you want to read more, here are the Bear Collector's Mysteries in order.

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