Friday, June 22, 2007

The False-Hearted Teddy - John J. Lamb

The False-Hearted Teddy
A Bear Collector’s Mystery
John J. Lamb
Berkley Prime Crime


Brad Lyon, a retired detective with the SFPD, and his wife, Ashleigh (Ash) are making the most of his retirement. They’ve always been collectors of teddy bears, but recently they’ve begun making their own custom bears and showing them. As they head out to the Har-Bear Expo in Baltimore, Brad finds that he’s actually nervous and excited about showing his very first bear, Dirty Beary, an homage to Clint Eastwood’s movie character.

Setting up for the show, Brad witnesses the behind-the-scenes activities of Tony and Jennifer Swift. Tony is your basic abuser, and asthmatic Jennifer, his victim. Inside the expo, their display is 180 degrees from their real life. The Swifts have created an award-winning line of bears called Cheery Cherubs; bears dressed as angels. Their display space is over-the-top, but the bears are undeniably adorable. Each one comes with a children’s book, written and illustrated by their new partner, Todd Litten. The big news at this show is that the Swifts have just inked a deal with a large manufacturer to mass-produce the angel bears; and there’s talk of an animated series, too, all of which means big money.

At the next morning’s breakfast, the Swifts make the formal announcement. There’s polite applause and an obnoxious display from Tony, as usual. But all good will evaporates when another bear designer accuses the Swifts of stealing their idea from her. Both Swifts look uncomfortable, and Jennifer begins to get an asthma attack. Tony says her inhaler is upstairs in their room, and runs to get it. One puff on the inhaler, however, and Jennifer collapses. While performing CPR, Ash, who is giving mouth-to-mouth, gets a strange chemical taste that does not correspond to the medicine in the inhaler. When Jennifer dies, there are plenty of suspects, starting with her own husband.

Brad narrates the books, which began with last year’s THE MOURNFUL TEDDY in first-person, and his sarcastic, dark humor, a holdover from his days on the force, saves the series from being too cutesy. He’s still adjusting to life as a retired detective, and investigating a murder that took place right in front of him makes perfect sense. His longtime marriage to Ash is what grounds him, and their relationship is deep and mature. The convention participants make for an interesting pool of suspects, and there are plenty of viable motives. This second entry proves that you don’t need to be a bear collector to enjoy this lively, well-plotted series.

Rating: 7
June 2007
ISBN# 978-0-425-21610-1 (paperback)


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