The Llama of Death
A Theodora "Teddy" Bentley, Gunn Zoo Mystery by Betty Webb
Review: When the Reverend Victor Emerson is found dead at the feet of a llama named Alejandro, few mourn his demise. The general consensus is the odious man got what he deserved. But as animal handler Theodora "Teddy" Bentley jumps to Alejandro's defense, she quickly realizes that the sometimes cantankerous llama, no matter how adept it may be, could not have shot the crossbow found in Emerson's back in The Llama of Death, the third mystery in this series by Betty Webb.
Teddy's relief is rather short-lived, however. Though Emerson crossed metaphorical swords with many, the most recent person to threaten to kill him is none other than Teddy's mother, Caro. Emerson had refused to cast her as Anne Boleyn at the local Renaissance Faire, and she resented the implication that she was too old for the part. That and it seems that the Reverend was not exactly a licensed man of the cloth … and his officiating two of Caro's marriages, both of which left her quite wealthy when her subsequent divorces were settled, may result in a finding that she was never legally wed in the first place and thus not entitled to any spousal support settlement. "But she married them in good faith!" Teddy says to her father, who has his own legal issues, what with a warrant out for his arrest for embezzlement. "Where money's concerned," he tells her, "there's no such thing as good faith."
The Llama of Death is a fast-paced mystery with a very large cast of characters … most of which are suspects in Victor Emerson's murder. The narrative often seems "busy"; it's a rare page that doesn't convey a sense of urgency to move on to the next one. Which is a little unfortunate because the opening scene, a Renaissance Faire which provides such a colorful backdrop to the site of murder and makes for a terrific substitute zoo setting, doesn't seem to be leveraged for maximum effect. The harbor location of Teddy's houseboat home, however, is used to good advantage here.
The murder mystery plot itself is nicely constructed and there is a lot of satisfaction following Teddy around as she assembles clues to the killer's identity. Her nemesis here is Deputy Elvin Dade, a somewhat boorish and inept police officer, who is in charge of the investigation while Teddy's fiancé, Sheriff Joe Reyas, is attending a course in Homeland Security in Virginia. The dynamic between them is probably supposed to provide some comic relief, but misses more than it hits. Joe returns at the end, however, and not a moment too soon.
Acknowledgment: Maryglenn McCombs Book Publicity provided a copy of The Llama of Death for this review.
Review Copyright © 2013 — Hidden Staircase Mystery Books — All Rights Reserved
Selected reviews of other mysteries by this author …
The Koala of Death
Poisoned Pen Press (Hardcover), August 2010
ISBN-13: 9781590587560; ISBN-10: 1590587561
Location(s) referenced in The Llama of Death: Northern California
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The Llama of Death by Betty Webb — A Theodora "Teddy" Bentley, Gunn Zoo Mystery
Publisher: Poisoned Pen Press
Publication Date: January 2013
List Price: $24.95