Tuesday, October 07, 2008

The Clockwork Teddy - John J. Lamb


The Clockwork Teddy
A Bear Collector’s Mystery
John J. Lamb
Berkley Prime Crime

Mystery - Cozy

Retired detective Brad Lyon and his wife, Ashleigh (Ash) are in Sonoma, CA to attend a teddy bear show. This is the first time they’ve been back to the San Francisco area since they moved to Ash’s hometown in Virginia, and they’re combining the show with seeing their daughter, Heather. Heather followed in her dad’s footsteps and is now a detective with the SFPD.

Ash is a devoted teddy bear designer, and since his forced retirement after an injury, Brad is surprised to discover that he’s taking it more and more seriously, even creating his own bears, dressed as famous fictional detectives. Another surprise is the surly guy in the bear suit, stomping around the show. Brad tries to talk to him, but the bear-man quickly up-ends a display table, steals the cash box, and escapes. Not a normal way to start a show devoted to stuffed animals and the people who create and collect them.

Later that evening, while having dinner with Brad’s former SFPD partner, Gregg Mauel, they’re interrupted by a call from a homicide scene. Missing the action, Brad rides along with Mauel. The scene is a flophouse motel. There’s a dead guy in one of the rooms, and a strange-looking teddy bear in the parking lot. It looks like the prototype for some kind of walking, talking, interactive toy. Technology like that might be worth killing to get. Also in the lot, a car containing a bear suit. That can’t be a coincidence.

After three novels that take place in Virginia (THE MOURNFUL TEDDY, THE FALSE-HEARTED TEDDY, THE CRAFTY TEDDY) it’s nice to see Brad back in action as a SF detective, even if he’s serving in an advisory capacity. It’s clear he loved the job, and still has good instincts. His fondness for puns is something else again. This installment reads a little less like a cozy and more like a straight mystery, and that works just fine. The story seems a bit more complex than in previous novels and is very tightly plotted. The change in location makes this a great place for newcomers to start, and longtime readers will enjoy watching Brad in his old stomping grounds.

Rating: 7 ½
October 2008
ISBN# 978-0-425-22429-8 (paperback)

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