Wednesday, May 15, 2013

Book Review: The Treacherous Teddy by John J. Lamb (Bear Collector's Mysteries #5)

Stars: 5 out of 5
Pros: Confusing mystery with great characters and humor
Cons: Tad slow in the beginning, little true bear influence
The Bottom Line:
It may have few bears
But the suspects are many
Another great book

Hunting Accident? Or Murder?  Brad Must be Beary Clever to Solve This One

I almost passed up the Bear Collector's Mysteries, figuring they'd be too cutesy for me.  I would have been a fool.  The Treacherous Teddy is the fifth entry in the series, and they continue to entertain.

The series stars Brad and Ashleigh Lyon.  Brad is a cop who was forced into an early retirement after being shot on the job.  The couple have moved to Virginia where they indulge their hobby of making and collecting artisan teddy bears.  The two also help out the local Sheriff from time to time with murders, and Ashleigh has even gone so far as to be deputized.

The book opens with Ashleigh serving a shift on the local force.  Brad is using the night at home to finished the latest in the "Claw and Order" collection, Bear-atio Caine.  All that changes when Ashleigh is sideswiped by a car.  When the car gets away, Ashleigh returns to the scene of the accident, only to find a dead body.  Brad quickly joins her as they begin processing the scene to figure out how the man died.

The victim is lying outside his farmhouse with an arrow in his chest.  It looks like a freak hunting accident.  But could it have been murder?  Did the poacher shoot the arrow?  Or was it the feuding neighbor?

Like his character, author John J. Lamb is a former homicide cop.  That really shows in the book.  These are really more police procedurals than cozies since all the main characters are cops of one type or another.  And the emphasis is not only on who did it, but getting the evidence to prove it.  As a result, the first couple of chapters are a tad on the slow side, but once the story gets going, it really picks up.  I had a hard time putting it down.  There are lots of twists and viable suspects.  At one point, I thought I had the killer, but ultimately, I turned out to be wrong.

The characters are also great.  I love Brad and Ashleigh.  Their relationship just borders on too sweet without actually crossing the line.  In fact, it's kind of nice to see an older happily married couple in a series I read.  Tina, the Sheriff they work with, is another great character.  And I wish they'd included more of Brad's friend Sergei here.

One reason the plot works so well are the suspect characters.  A couple of them are little more than one note characters, but most of them develop beyond that the more page time they get in the book.  They all work quite well to draw suspicion on themselves at various times in the story.

One reason I love this series is the humor.  Brad has a very puny sense of humor.  Some of it is dark, a result of his years as a cop.  Since I love puns, these always crack me up.  Additionally, the few scenes that Sergei does have are great with the jokes flying between the two friends.

This is the first book in the series to have a weak teddy bear connection.  True, Ashleigh has organized a show that takes place of the course of the book, and the Lyons are looking to buy a house as a teddy bear museum/shop, but those aren't nearly as strong as in previous books.  Since teddy bears aren't the reason I read these books, I don't really mind.  Heck, I'd read about these characters with any theme.

These books always go much too quickly.  If you are looking for something mostly light and slightly different, check out The Treacherous Teddy.

Sadly, this is the last book in the series, but you'll want to go back and read the Bear Collector's Mysteries in order.

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