Death by Chocolate Lab by Bethany Blake

Book review. This cozy mystery pairs a pack of adorable dogs with a pet-sitter turned amateur sleuth.

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Daphne Templeton of Sylvan Creek is a pet sitter who has never met a stray she didn’t love. She lives rent-free on her sister’s property, veterinarian Piper. Serious Piper and free-spirited Daphne are opposite in terms of personality and lifestyles, but they share a love of animals. Socrates the basset hound and Artie the foster Chihuahua are the most prominent dogs with Daphne in the story, and were both there when the victim of the murder mystery was found.

Steve Beamus was an animal trainer and a womanizer, and not that popular with the rest of the town. Still, it’s a shock to the community when he turns up dead. Considering he was one Piper’s property for a community event — and the fact that the pair were exes — Daphne’s sister is the number one suspect for the killing.

Despite getting into trouble with the lead detective on the case, Jonathan Black, Daphne is determined to find a way to prove that her sister is not guilty.

This book was first published in 2017, the beginning of a new cozy mystery series. About two Christmases ago, I received the fourth book in the series, A Midwinter’s Tail, as a gift. I enjoyed that book and was able to read it without having read the prior three books without much trouble.

My local bookstore was having a small, “Buy 1, Get 1 Half Off” sale on select cozy mystery books recently. Death by Chocolate Lab was included in the sale (by coincidence, so was A Midwinter’s Tail, but oddly not the two books in between the stories in the series) and I picked it up, interested in seeing how this particular cozy mystery series started.

  • Death by Chocolate Lab is a quick read, filled with short chapters that you can flip right through.
  • The dogs are wonderful. Socrates is nearly human with his descriptions depicting him as sometimes one of the smarter characters, and Artie is described as a bug-eyed, one-eared, drooling machine with the most excitable personality. Three rottweilers named after Shakespearean characters Macduff, Iago, and Hamlet, and Axis the chocolate lab also add plenty of flavor to their scenes.
  • The mystery was done well. There were plenty of other characters who could have done Steve in, and the reader is tugged right along with Daphne as she tries to figure out who could have done it, why they would have done it, and how they would have done it. Satisfyingly, I was able to figure out the who by the last quarter of the book, having gotten hints throughout the rest of the story, but not quite the why.
  • Being a cozy mystery, food was a main topic when the characters were discussing the mystery and moving the plot along. Included in the book are some homemade recipes, both for dogs and humans, which is a nice touch.
  • Daphne herself can be a hit or miss. While I enjoyed the majority of the book with her — indeed, if I knew her in real life, I imagine we would be friends — she had a few flighty moments. Being free-spirited is great, but when it comes to murder investigations, there were quite a few actions she took that could have gotten herself or other characters into serious trouble.
  • Some side characters did not receive a wrap-up. After ending the book, there were characters that I still had questions about and it left me wondering what was going on with them. There were a couple in particular that were suspects at some point in the book and it was a little disappointing to not see their parts in the story wrapped up.
  • If there was to be a love triangle in this story, it was not done well. Aside from Detective Black, Daphne’s on-and-off-again boyfriend Dylan is written as a potential love interest. Love triangles is not my favorite element in stories to begin with, but if a story is going to include one, the sides should be even. It is not a love triangle if the main character heavily favors or obviously has more chemistry with one interest over the other.

I enjoyed this book. If cozy mysteries are a genre you find yourself picking up, or you want to give one a shot, Death by Chocolate Lab is a good start to a series. Animal lovers, particularly dog people, will find the canine characters in this story to be entertaining, and the setting is a charming place to visit. Daphne Templeton is, for the most part, a fun character to follow and the side characters were all distinct.

4 out of 5 stars.

Written by

A writer with a passion for creativity, gaming, dogs, and chocolate. Find me at positivespin.substack.com and twitch.tv/xdoublejump.

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