The Llama of Death by Betty Webb

LAMA

The Llama of Death by Betty Webb
Publisher: Poisoned Pen Press
Genre: Contemporary, Suspense/Mystery
Length: Full Length (250 pgs)
Heat Level: Sweet
Rating: 4.5 stars
Reviewed by Cholla

Zookeeper Theodora “Teddy” Bentley takes Alejandro, the Gunn Zoo llama, to a Monterey Bay-area Renaissance Faire only to discover the still-warm body of the Reverend Victor Emerson, owner of the local wedding chapel, dressed in his royal robes as Henry the Eighth. At first it appears as if Aljandro stomped the man to death, but a closer look reveals a crossbow dart in the man’s back. Teddy’s investigation proves the “reverend” isn’t really a reverend at all — he’s an escaped convict, and every marriage he’s performed in the past twenty years is null and void. Teddy’s mother Caro, a spoiled ex-beauty queen, becomes the chief suspect and is immediately jailed when she causes a riot in the courtroom.The “reverend” had twice married Caro to wealthy men, and when both marriages failed, Caro received large financial settlements. Now she may have to give all that money back, certainly a good enough reason to commit murder. But Caro wasn’t the only person gunning for Victor. The child of the man Victor once murdered may have wanted to kill him, too, and at one point, even Teddy herself if handcuffed and jailed. Even worse, Teddy’s embezzling father flies in from exile in Costa Rica to help spring Caro from jail, thus putting his own freedom in jeapoardy. As Teddy continues her investigation, she finds herself up to her ears in girl gang members, squabbling boat liveaboarders, Renaissance Faire actors and stuntmen, and assorted animals.

She thought working the local Renaissance Faire was the worst thing that could possibly happen to a girl. But when a dead body turns up in her llama’s pen, she knows that the worst has only just begun. From the moment Teddy takes it upon herself to investigate, the entire world as she knows it begins to come undone. Is no one who they say they are? How can she ever trust anyone after this?

Teddy Bentley, zookeeper extraordinaire, is great. She’s quirky, frustrated, and an all-around likable girl. Her frustrations with her parents, missing her fiancé, and the craziness that comes with being a zookeeper make her into a very relatable character. I will admit though, she had quite a few of what I’ve always thought of as ‘Scooby-Doo’ moments – those moments when she knows that she should just leave well enough alone but can’t bring herself to walk away. This is both good and bad. Good, because it means that she’s going to get to the bottom of the mystery, no matter what. But it can be bad, too, because she occasionally comes off as a meddling busy body. In the end, it all balances out and I still liked her by the time she figured it all out.

Besides having something akin to the best title ever, The Llama of Death was one of the cutest and most enjoyable cozy mysteries I’ve read to date. Chock full of amusing and interesting characters, The Llama of Death brings a lot to the plate, rounding it out with a great small town mystery. Alejandro the llama, Teddy’s charge and one-time murder suspect, really steals the show with his quirky personality and lovableness. As both a lover of animals and mysteries, I couldn’t have scored better if I had tried.

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