Tuesday, March 21, 2017

Death by Chocolate Lab (Lucky Paws Petsitting Mystery)

Author:  Bethany Blake
Genre:  Mystery

Mass Market Paperback; Ebook
ISBN #:  9781496707383
Kensington Publishing
304 Pages
$7.99; $5.99 Amazon
February 28, 2016

✮✮✮



Pet sitter Daphne Templeton has a soft spot for every stray and misfit who wanders into the quaint, lakeside village of Sylvan Creek.  But even Daphne doesn't like arrogant, womanizing Steve Beamus, the controversial owner of Blue Ribbon K-9 Academy.  When Steve turns up dead during a dog agility trial, Daphne can think of a long list of people with motives for homicide, and so can the police.  Unfortunately, at the top of the list is Daphne's sister, Piper - Steve's lastest wronged girlfriend.

Certain that Piper is innocent, in spite of mounting evidence to the contrary, Daphne sets out to clear her sister's name - and find Axis, Steve's prize-winning chocolate Labrador, who went missing the night of Steve's death.  Aided by Socrates, her taciturn basset hound, and a hyperactive one-eared Chihuahua named Artie, Daphne quickly runs afoul of Detective Jonathan Black, a handsome and enigmatic newcomer to town, who has no appreciation for Daphne's unorthodox sleuthing.

Can a free-spirited pet sitter, armed only with a Ph.D. in Philosophy and her two incompatible dogs, find the real killer before she becomes the next victim?

********

Daphne Templeton is a pet-sitter currently caring for an eager Chihuahua who has too much energy, which led him to a dead body.  Now she's the one who's eager to find a killer before her sister winds up in a permanent cage...

Daphne Templeton  is a pet sitter in Sylvan Creek, Pennsylvania.  She has a basset hound named Socrates, and is temporarily caring for Artie, a one-eared Chihuahua with an overbite.  She lives with her veterinarian sister Piper on Piper's Winding Hill Farm, which is going to be the setting for a dog agility trial.  The night before the trial, Steve Beamus arrives to set up the course.  He owns the Blue Ribbon K-9 Training Academy, and is Piper's ex-boyfriend.  Steve may be a very good dog trainer, but he's a terrible person.  He has an abrasive personality, a womanizer, and is condescending to people, which makes him disliked by many.  The next morning, Artie gets loose and runs into one of the tunnels and Daphne goes to retrieve him.  However, it isn't only Artie she finds in the tunnel - it's also the dead body of Steve.

What makes it worse is that Daphne saw Piper arguing with Steve the night before, and the police detective overhears a conversation between Daphne and Piper while they are discussing it.  Unfortunately, it puts Piper front and center as a suspect in Steve's murder.  But Daphne knows Piper couldn't have done it, and since it appears (to her at least) that the police aren't even looking for anyone else, decides to find proof her sister is innocent.  She also wonders where Axis, Steve's champion Labrador, has gone to, since she knows he wouldn't have left Steve willingly, and no one seems to care except her.

When Daphne starts sleuthing on her own, she somehow always winds up in close proximity with a frustrated Detective Jonathan Black, who keeps telling her to stay out of the investigation while she keeps telling him her sister's innocent.  It doesn't help things when Daphne finds another dead body, and that this one might very well have a connection to Steve's death.  Now Daphne needs to find a killer before she winds up as the next victim...

First off, let me say that I really liked Socrates and Artie and the recipes look really good.  I would have liked to enjoyed the character of Daphne more, but she didn't make sense.  She supposedly has a Ph.D. in Philosophy, but doesn't use it. (For those that don't know, a Ph.D. in this subject can take anywhere from 5-7 years beyond undergraduate study - so why would you get one if you're not going to use it?)  I have no idea how she earned it because she seems really flaky and acts more like an 18-year-old instead of 33.  It didn't seem plausible that she would devote that much concentration to study and a dissertation yet can't keep gas in her car or wear a watch to keep track of the time (how does she know when to pick up or return the pets?)

Speaking of which, she's a pet sitter who doesn't have a working cell phone, a reliable vehicle, and doesn't advertise her services...which explains why she's always broke and can't buy a new van.  She also doesn't believe in commitment, which explains the attraction Dylan, a laid-back surfer dude who's her sister's vet assistant, feels for her.  He doesn't believe in commitment either.

Piper seems cold, and her mother Maeve is a super-realtor who obviously favors Piper (because she's just like her, contrary to Detective Black's belief).  She practically ignores anything Daphne says, looks down on her and acts like she's better than anyone else.  A mother like this I can do without.  I do like a cozy where there's a potential love interest later on down the line, but I can't imagine Detective Black being interested in her at all since she's so flaky, and Dylan is just too laid back for me to even care about him.

When the ending comes and we find out the identity of the killer it came as a surprise, and I do think a warped mind is capable of anything.  But I will add that the opening paragraph was flat out funny, and it convinced me to read the rest of the book.  The interactions with the dogs is priceless, and I believe that Ms. Blake could, as the series progresses, give us a fun cozy experience.  As a matter of fact, I have already pre-ordered the next in the series, Dial Meow for Murder, which is due out in September, and I suggest you do the same.  All in all, a decent quick read.

https://www.amazon.com/Death-Chocolate-Lucky-Petsitting-Mystery/dp/1496707389/


More on Bethany Blake's Books:  https://www.fantasticfiction.com/b/bethany-blake/

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