Monday, November 05, 2007

The Crafty Teddy - John J. Lamb

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


After twenty-some years on the SFPD, retired detective Brad Lyon knows the sounds of a break-in when he hears it. The thing is, he never expected to hear it in his own house located in a sleepy Virginia farm town. Leaving his wife Ashleigh to call the sheriff, Brad spots the intruder in front of the case that holds the most valuable of the couple’s teddy bear collection. These are antiques and artisan bears. The intruder fires at Brad and runs, leaving a few ruined bears in his wake. Obviously, he was no ordinary burglar, since the only thing missing is an antique bear.

Weeks later, Brad is spending time at a local bbq place when two Asian men enter and ask for directions to a small local museum. Instantly on alert, Brad notes the third man standing outside and takes down the license plate of their Hummer. When the men leave, Brad tells his friends that the men were obviously Yakuza, or Japanese Mafia. On his way home, unable to shake his suspicions, Brad stops by the museum. He finds the place empty, except for the director, who is lying on the floor, dead, apparently crushed by an antique china cabinet.

When the medical examiner arrives, it’s clear that the museum director was hit over the head before the china cabinet was tipped over on him in an attempt to conceal the crime. In their haste to leave, one of the Asian men carelessly left his business card in the director’s shirt pocket. Ashleigh is the one to notice other oddities at the scene. There are two very valuable antique teddy bears on display. Both are still there, but their placements have been switched. In addition, an antique quilt hanging on the wall seems just a little too stiff to be a real antique. As a consultant to the sheriff’s department, and a teddy bear collector and creator, Brad is just the man for this investigation.

It seems odd, to say the least, that the Yakuza would be cruising around rural Virginia. And it seems like a stretch to connect the crimes. Brad’s background in police work makes him an invaluable assistant to the local sheriff. And his macabre humor in the face of a violent death makes perfect sense. His wry humor, coupled with a few truly eye-rolling puns, keeps the story from becoming too twee for mystery enthusiasts. His wife, Ashleigh is a real cop’s wife, who understands and assists her husband in his investigation. Their relationship is mature and real and refreshingly free from silly misunderstandings and fights. This is the third entry in a series, following THE MOURNFUL TEDDY and THE FALSE-HEARTED TEDDY, and it’s an addition that’s solidly entertaining.

Rating: 7
November 2007ISBN# 978-0-425-21885-3 (paperback)


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