If I haven't convinced you to try one of John J. Lamb's Bear Collector's mysteries yet, maybe The Clockwork Teddy will convince you. This mystery combines the best of a police procedural with the teddy bear aspect of a cozy. But, this one is definitely the strongest police procedural yet in the series.
Lamb cleverly avoids "the Cabot Cove Syndrome" by removing his characters from their home turf of the Shenandoah Valley. Since Brad and Ashleigh Lyon are bear artists, teddy bear shows allow them the opportunity to travel and leave town. But, this mystery takes them not only to the Teddy Bear Flag Republic show in Sonoma, California, but back to Brad's former stamping grounds where he worked as a homicide detective with the San Francisco Police Department.
While checking out a booth at the show, Brad witnesses a costumed bear attack the booth, and steal the moneybox. He's a little suspicious when he runs into Merv the Perv, a former cop, intimidating the booth owner, Lauren, immediately after. Lauren reluctantly tells Brad that her son, Kyle, has disappeared. He was a former employee at Lycaon Software, and the company has threatened him, accusing him of theft. When Lauren refuses to cooperate with the police, Brad drops the subject.
But, the whole incident at the teddy bear show has relevance when Brad's former partner has to interrupt their dinner to report to a sleazy motel, the site of a shooting. When Brad rides along, he has the suspicion Kyle is involved, because one piece of evidence is a highly advanced robotic bear. But, it will be quite a while before Brad and the San Francisco Police Dept. find out the actual truth in this case.
Lamb easily intertwines teddy bears, Brad and Ashleigh's family life, and a police procedural. And, Berkley Prime Crime has some of the best cover illustrations for books. Check out this cover by Jeff Crosby. It's another outstanding example of cover art. That's just one more welcome addition to Lamb's intriguing mysteries. The Clockwork Teddy is the best so far.
John J. Lamb's website is www.johnjlamb.net
The Clockwork Teddy by John J. Lamb. Penguin Group (USA), ©2008. ISBN 9780425224298(paperback), 288p.