Death by Chocolate Lab (Lucky Paws Petsitting Mystery #1)4 Stars

Published February 28th 2017 by Kensington

Daphne and Piper Templeton are sisters who live together, but are opposites in nature. Piper is an organized veterinarian who owns a farm, Daphne has a doctorate in Philosophy and can’t even keep gas in her vehicle. She lives rent free with her sister while trying to start up her Pet Sitting business. When the book opens we meet Socrates, the philosopher basset hound, Artie, the chihuahua that is so ugly he is cute and three huge rottweilers named Macduff, Iago and Hamlet all on a walk with Daphne. I was hooked right there. Then along comes Piper’s ex Steve Beamus, who runs the Blue Ribbon K-9 Academy, with his Chocolate Lab, Axis. Daphne does not like Steve and has no idea what Piper ever saw in him. They are all trying to prepare the animals and the farm for a dog agility event. When Steve is found dead inside a tunnel on the course, Piper is the main suspect in the eyes of the new Police Detective, Jonathan Black. Daphne tries to convince him that her sister had nothing to do with Steve’s murder, but when he does not instantly believe her, she sets off to investigate to prove she is innocent.

As a dog lover I picked up this book based on the title and cover. The dogs were the stars of this story. Socrates belongs to Daphne and she is fostering little Artie in hope of finding this unusual little dog a forever home. The rottweilers belong to a wealthy client. Axis, the victim’s dog is missing throughout most of the story and Daphne was not only trying to find the murderer, but Axis as well. The human characters are a bit quirky. Of course there is Daphne, who seems to never have any money, constantly has issues with her vehicle, seems to not have any other clients and has a bit of a crush on Detective Jonathan Black. I was not sure if I liked her at first, but she grows on you. Jonathan is new in town, easy on the eyes and really doesn’t think Piper is guilty. He gets extremely frustrated with Daphne throughout the story. Mr. Peachy lives in a cottage on the farm and helps Piper with whatever she needs. He is like a grandfather figure to the girls. We also meet some of the other townspeople to round out the cast. All the characters are well developed, even though this is the first book in the series.

The story starts out quickly and with some humour. The murder happens in the early chapters and sets the stage. The middle begins to drag a bit, then picks up again. I did find the story a bit choppy, with short chapters. Some of the breaks could have been left out to help the flow. The murder had plenty of suspects as Steve was not all that well liked, and when the culprit was revealed, I was surprised. It made sense when the story wound up. Bethany Blake wrote a fun story with some interesting twists and characters. I enjoyed this book and am looking forward to the next one. The Lucky Paws Petsitting Mysteries are off to a good start.

About the Book (From Goodreads): Pet 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?

About the Author: Bethany Blake lives in a small, quaint town in Pennsylvania with her husband and three daughters. When she’s not writing or riding horses, she’s wrangling a menagerie of furry family members that includes a nervous pit bull, a fearsome feline, a blind goldfish, and an attack cardinal named Robert. Like Daphne Templeton, the heroine of her Lucky Paws Mysteries, Bethany holds a Ph.D. and operates a pet sitting business called Barkley’s Premium Pet Care.

Twitter: bethanyblakeau1