I'd been reading about John J. Lamb's teddy bear mystery on DorothyL. There are fans of this cozy mystery series who continually mention it, so it was time to try the first book in the series, The Mournful Teddy. All of those readers are not mistaken.
Retired San Francisco homicide cop, Brad Lyon, is settling into life in Virginia's mountain country with his wife, Ashleigh. Remmelkemp Mill, in the Shenandoah Valley, was Ashleigh's family home since the late 1800s. And, Brad and Ashleigh are finding it a peaceful place to build up their teddy bear business, Lyon's Tigers and Bears. It's peaceful until their dog, Kitchener, finds a body in the river behind their house.
Brad convinces Deputy Tina Barron that the man was murdered, but Sheriff Holcomb brushes him off as a pathetic retired cripple, and calls it suicide. Angry, Brad and Ashleigh decide to start their own investigation, with the help of friends and Ashleigh's family. They're up against Holcomb and his "goon son," a cop on steroids. And, they're not sure who else might be involved in the community when they find out the victim was connected to the Steiff Mourning Bear.
Ashleigh's first bear exhibit at the Teddy Bear Extravaganza was supposed to feature the auction of a Mourning Bear. There were 655 Mourning Bears made by Steiff in 1912 to commemorate the sinking of the Titanic. However, the bear, meant to be auctioned for charity, never showed up, and it seems as if the man found behind in the river was supposed to have delivered that bear.
Murder, a missing teddy bear, moonshiners, a minister connected with stolen goods, a rich woman hated by the locals, and, of course, crooked cops. What more do you want in a cozy?
How about a couple married for twenty-six years who are still very much in love? Brad and Ashleigh Lyon are terrific characters who work well as amateur detectives. The bear collector's business will take them into future mysteries. And, as I've said recently about Berkley's paperbacks, it has a terrific cover. Berkley uses some of the best cover artists in the business. All of those readers who commented about this series are correct. The Mournful Teddy is a enjoyable kick-off to the series.
John J. Lamb's website is www.johnjlamb.net
The Mournful Teddy by John J. Lamb. Berkley Prime Crime, ©2006. ISBN 9780425211120 (paperback), 304p.