Wednesday, March 27, 2013

Book Review: The False-Hearted Teddy by John J. Lamb (Bear Collector's Mysteries #2)

Stars: 5 out of 5
Pros: Humor enlivens a fun book
Cons: The first chapter
The Bottom Line:
Teddy bear show crime
Great main characters, humor
Series you can't miss

And the Pure in Heart Shall Catch the Crook

After years on the San Francisco Police Department, Brad Lyon was forced into an early retirement after he was shot in the line of duty. So he and his wife Ashleigh moved across the country and really begin to indulge their hobby of teddy bear making. Ashleigh is the real genius, but Brad is catching on quickly and enjoying the change of pace from the grim realities of his former job. Unfortunately, as they learned in the series debut, even something as cute and innocent as teddy bears has a dark side.  That's still true in The False-Hearted Teddy.

Brad and Ashleigh are excited about the Baltimore teddy bear show. They each have bears to enter. It's a major event, and they hope to really establish their Lyon's Tigers and Bears business with the contacts they make.

But before they can even get unloaded, they find trouble. Brad stumbles across a couple having a major fight. He intervenes before it gets physical, but neither the husband nor the wife seem to appreciate it.

The couple turns out to be Jen and Tony Swift, creators of the Cheery Cherub Bears, a highly popular line of angel themed bears. Their business is about to really take off with an offer to mass market their designs.

At breakfast the next morning, Jen gets an asthma attack. After her inhaler does no good, she dies. But Brad notices some things that raise his suspicions. With the local police refusing to take anything he says seriously, Brad once again dons his homicide detective hat to find the real killer. Can he do it before the convention ends?

The first book in this series was easily my favorite debut of last year. This book is equally as good. The first chapter is a little slow as it reintroduces the characters and updates us on some people from the first book who aren't really part of this story. It wasn't the best start to the book, but once we move beyond that, things pick up rapidly. The plot gets going in the second chapter and builds steadily through the rest of the novel. I found the book hard to put down.

Because Brad and the author are former cops, the series is an unique mix between cozy and police procedural. As a result, we are equally concerned with figuring out who the villain is and building an air tight case against him or her. The identity of the murderer is revealed earlier then normal in the books I read, but that doesn't mean I lost interest. I was just as interested in making sure they were caught as I had been in figuring out their identity.

Of course, part of that is because of Brad and Ashleigh. Once again, they were a complete delight to be around. Their sense of right and wrong is only topped by their sense of humor. Their puns and sarcasm had me laughing my way through the book, cheering them on often. And I have to admire their marriage. While occasionally over the top, I enjoy reading about a couple still so in love.

The other characters are just as well developed. A few of the minor ones come across a bit shallow, but they aren't given that page time to fully develop. The important ones get plenty of time to become real, making us care even more about the outcome.

Aside from the first chapter, the writing in the rest of the book isn't clunky at all. It's a fast read that fully engages the reader.

This series is different from most everything else I read and I can't get enough. The False-Hearted Teddy was an enjoyable follow up.  I will be collecting the Bear Collector's Mysteries as long as John J. Lamb writes them.

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