Monday, August 14, 2006

The Mournful Teddy - John J. Lamb

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

Mystery - Cozy

Brad Lyon and his wife, Ashleigh, recently relocated from San Francisco to Remmelkemp Mill, Virginia. They’re living in a home that originally belonged to Ash’s great-grandparents, situated alongside the Shenandoah River. Brad retired from the SFPD’s Robbery/Homicide division after an assailant’s bullet destroyed part of his leg. These days, their time is spent devoted to Ash’s hobby of creating teddy bears. To his surprise, Brad finds that he’s becoming more and more interested. As the story opens, the two are preparing to attend their first show, the Shenandoah Valley Teddy Bear Extravaganza.

Before they can leave, however, their dog, Kitchener, alerts them to something in the river. Given the dog’s recent preoccupation with dead animals, Brad heads down to the riverbank to head off the dog. What he sees floating in the river is a corpse. When rescuers haul the body to shore, Brad sees telltale signs of strangulation. But the sheriff, without so much as glancing at the body, decrees that it’s an accidental death. Then he makes it clear that Brad’s input is not welcome.

The highlight of the teddy bear show is to be the auction of an extremely rare bear: The Mourning Bear, created by Steiff in 1912, to commemorate the sinking of the Titanic. A limited-edition bear, it’s now the most rare teddy in the world. Bidding is expected to top $150,000. But there’s a snag. The Mourning Bear is AWOL. The man who was supposed to deliver it never arrived. Brad does some checking and discovers a link between the missing bear and the dead body. The sheriff remains strangely uninterested, but Brad’s cop instincts are on full alert.

THE MOURNFUL TEDDY is the first in a very entertaining new series. Brad and Ash have been married for decades, raised two kids, and now share a new hobby. It’s fun to learn about teddy bears along with Brad, and understand why he’s drawn to something that many people dismiss as a child’s toy. His observations, about bears and crime, are insightful and intelligent. This may be because the author is a retired detective who, along with his wife, collects bears. This real experience is evident on every page. The mystery is tightly constructed, and there are plenty of possible outcomes. I’m eager to see what comes next in the series.

Rating: 7 ½
August 2006
ISBN# 0-425-21112-6 (paperback)


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