Review: Death by Chocolate Lab by Bethany Blake

Death by Chocolate Lab (Lucky Paws Petsitting Mystery #1)About Death by Chocolate Lab

• Series: Lucky Paws Petsitting Mysteries (#1)
• Paperback:
 304 pages
• Published: February 2017 by Kensington
• Source:

Goodreads DescriptionPet 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 latest 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?

My Thoughts

First of all, can we talk about that cover? How adorable! Even without reading the description, I knew I wanted to check it out.

Death by Chocolate Lab is the first book of the brand new series, Lucky Paws Petsitting Mysteries, by Bethany Blake. Fun fact, Bethany Blake is a pseudonym – or perhaps a real name, and her other name is a pseudonym. Regardless, she also writes under a different name, but so far I haven’t been able to figure it out. She looks familiar, though whether that’s because I actually have seen her before or wishful thinking, I’m not sure. Check out her blog and let me know if you recognize her!

Death by Chocolate Lab introduces us to Daphne Templeton, Doctor of Philosophy and aspiring petsitter. Accompanied by her trusty Basset Hound, Socrates, and a “slightly misshapen but totally lovable” Chihuahua named Artie, Daphne is determined to prove her sister didn’t murder her sort-of-ex-sort-of-current-boyfriend. Unfortunately, Steve was seen arguing with Piper the night before his death, and his body was found on her property. Add in a dangerously good-looking detective and a missing Labrador retriever named Axis, and Daphne has her hands full.

Daphne is about what you’d expect in an amateur sleuth. She’s plucky, smart, and gets into all sorts of trouble. Sure, she’s a bit overzealous, but she’s got a sister to protect. I’m a sucker for cozies with animals, and this one didn’t disappoint. While the dogs don’t actually talk, Blake does what all pet owners do – provides words for them. They have personalities all their own, and, since Daphne takes them everywhere, are just as much characters as the humans.

Speaking of the humans, I’ll admit, I did struggle to connect with them at times. It wasn’t that they weren’t likable. Daphne in particular had a great sense of humor – pretty much every time she encountered “the bear” I laughed out loud. No, it’s more that there’s not a ton of physical descriptors. For example, we get a few notes about hair color and eye color, but we don’t get a lot of detail on people’s actions and affects. At times, some of the interactions between characters come off a little stiff because of this – we really only have their words to go by. Since Blake isn’t a new writer, it may be that branching into what I assume is a new genre simply means she’s still finding her groove.

The mystery itself was a little odd, but honestly, the mystery kinda takes a back seat to the rest of the story, so this didn’t bother me too much. I didn’t really understand the killer’s motivation, but again, I didn’t really care. It wrapped up well enough, and actually, since there were really TWO mysteries – the murder and the missing Axis (otherwise known as Cookie Puss), I was satisfied.

I do, however, desperately want to know what happens to the Rottweilers, Ms. Blake.

Death by Chocolate Lab is a great start to what promises to be a fun series. I hope the next book will tell us a little more about Sylvan Creek, Daphne’s petsitting business, and Detective Black’s past, but overall, a great solid cozy. You can pick it up tomorrow, February 28th! Books 2 and 3 are already titled, and expected publication is September 2017 and early 2018, respectively. (You can bet I’ll be reading them!)

3 stars

Huge thanks to the publisher and Netgalley for the ARC. All opinions are my own.