Belinda Blake and the Snake in the Grass

Belinda Blake and the Snake in the Grass

by Heather Day Gilbert

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Overview

When exotic pet-sitter Belinda Blake moves into a carriage house in tony Greenwich, Connecticut, she's hoping to find some new clients. Instead she discovers a corpse in the garden-and a knack for solving murders . . .

Pet-sitter Belinda Blake doesn't rattle easily, but move-in day has been eventful, to say the least. The python in her care tried to slither to freedom-just as she met Stone Carrington V, her landlords' disarmingly handsome son. With the constrictor back in its cage, she heads out to the garden, only to discover a designer shoe poking out of the boxwood hedge-attached to a woman's dead body.

The victim, Margo Fenton, was a Carrington family friend, and no one in their circle seems above suspicion. Between client trips to Manhattan and visits to her family in upstate New York, Belinda begins to put the pieces together. But though she's falling for Stone's numerous charms, Belinda wonders if she's cozying up to a killer. And soon, daily contact with a deadly reptile might be the least dangerous part of her life . . .

"A humorous series debut with exotic pets and a zany cast of characters. Gilbert's cozy will make you smile."
-Amanda Flower, USA Today bestselling author of Premeditated Peppermint

"Cozy fans will root for pet-sitter Belinda Blake as she unravels this cleverly-crafted mystery in a delightfully-deadly new series by Heather Day Gilbert."
-Elizabeth Spann Craig, author of the bestselling Myrtle Clover Mysteries

"Smart and fresh, with a compelling mystery at its heart, Belinda Blake and the Snake in the Grass is an enchanting cozy that will hook you from page one. As will amateur sleuth Belinda Blake, a delightfully original heroine you'll want to meet again and again."
-Karin Kaufman, author of the bestselling Juniper Grove Cozy Mystery Series

"Snakes rank only slightly more favorably with me than spiders, leeches, and ticks. So you can imagine my surprise when, by the end of this book, the snake was my second favorite character after Belinda herself. On top of being a great book for animal-lovers (trust me, you'll love even the snake), this was a fun read with a smart sleuth. I can't wait to see what Belinda does next, where both pets and perps are concerned."
-Emily James, award-winning and bestselling cozy mystery author

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781516108848
Publisher: Penguin Random House LLC
Publication date: 06/25/2019
Series: Exotic Pet-Sitter Mystery , #1
Pages: 192
Sales rank: 233,432
Product dimensions: 5.50(w) x 8.50(h) x 0.44(d)

About the Author

HEATHER DAY GILBERT, an ECPA Christy award finalist and Grace award winner, writes contemporary mysteries and Viking historicals. Her novels feature small towns, family relationships, and women who aren't afraid to protect those they love. Publisher's Weekly gave Heather's Viking historical Forest Child a starred review, saying it is "an engaging story depicting timeless human struggles with faith, love, loyalty, and leadership." Find out more at heatherdaygilbert.com.

Read an Excerpt

CHAPTER 1

The first time I saw Stone Carrington the fifth, I had a snake wrapped around my neck.

Now granted, he acted as if it was something he saw every day, a girl with unwanted snakeskin accents in her curly blonde hair.

"Pet-sitting," I explained, trying to extricate myself from the ball python I had agreed to "walk" for his owner. "They're supposedly a relatively mild breed," I continued.

"I should hope so." He dipped his tennis visor in a fake bow. Unfortunately, he had emerged from the tennis courts at the exact moment the snake had started climbing me like a tree. "Stone Carrington. And you are?"

"Belinda Blake." I felt the need to over-explain, one of my persistent habits. "I'm your new tenant. In the carriage house. It's lovely, by the way." The snake had stopped wriggling, so I walked a bit faster toward my small house. Why had I chosen to walk up the main drive for another gape at the Carringtons' mansion?

Stone gave me a once-over as the snake moved again. I was sure my ripped jeans, worn Crocs, and gamer T-shirt didn't impress, but I was yanked from my self-conscious musings as the python slithered over my shoulder and disappeared down my shirt. I launched into the dance of death, jerking about like Elaine from Seinfeld.

"Here, let me help," Stone said, making an arguably decent attempt to extricate the wriggling creature from my shirt by wrapping both hands around its tail.

The snake gave a low hiss and slid down further.

"Never mind," I said hastily, pulling my shirt up and throwing modesty to the wind so I could see the snake's beady eyes. "Grab its head! We have to grab it!"

Stone was a bit too hesitant as he obliged, and the snake lunged at him.

"It can sense our fear! Just call animal control or something!" I shouted. The snake's patience was probably exhausted and soon he would start nibbling on me.

Stone did as I said, pulling an expensive-looking cell phone from his white shorts, which must've been a bit chilly in November. Still, the shorts managed to show off his naturally tan legs.

The snake continued his horrifying quest to cozy up somewhere on my torso until one of the older gardeners approached us.

"Pardon my intrusion, but you are having trouble, no?"

"Yes. Could you help get this thing off me?"

The swarthy-skinned man began to tell a story with his hands.

"When I was a boy, I spent many hours playing with snakes. You have to sort of sneak up on them and" — here he grabbed the snake by the head, tugging gently until it loosened its grip on my shoulders — "you grab their neck, like so." He held it aloft, triumphant.

"Thank you, Jacques." Stone slipped his phone back into his pocket and crossed his arms, probably hoping Jacques wouldn't hand him the snake.

"Let's get him back in the cage," I suggested.

"Perfect," Stone said. Relief showed in his aqua eyes.

I led them into my house, which was still full of half-unpacked boxes. I hadn't even unrolled my favorite, albeit threadbare Indian rug. It would add a nice touch to the wide-plank pine floors.

The snake's cage was more like an oversized fish tank and the top was tricky to open, but it didn't take long for Jacques to transfer the willing captive into his preferred bed.

"Thank you so much," I said. "Are you around often?" I wanted to send him a thank you card.

"Most days I am, mademoiselle."

I found Jacques's French accent charming and I dusted off some of my high school French. "Merci beaucoup for your help today."

Jacques extended a rough hand and I placed mine in it. He lifted my hand to his lips for a brief kiss. "Enchanté." Giving me a wide smile, he strode back to his work.

Stone seemed a bit shell-shocked, watching the snake winding his way into a ball. "You really are a pet-sitter? For snakes?"

I nodded. "And other animals. I try to be flexible — it pulls in a different clientele than your average dog or cat sitter, though they're on my roster, too."

"Greenwich clients?" He pushed his visor up to see me better, which shoved his dark bangs into an artless puff that was adorable.

Although Greenwich, Connecticut, had its share of wealthy pet owners, I'd already built up my business in Manhattan. "So far, my jobs have been in the city, but I do plan to start advertising locally."

Stone nodded seriously. "Word of mouth is likely the best advertisement. I'm happy to put in a good word for you with my friends. Just give me the go-ahead — you can call up to the house and ask for Stone." He paused. "Well, you'll need to ask for Stone the fifth, otherwise they'll connect you with my father."

I maintained a straight face. Stone the fifth. I didn't have to guess what a boon Stone the fifth's word of mouth would likely be. He was doubtless well-connected in Greenwich, with a name like that and a mansion like the one behind my carriage house.

I walked him outside, grinning. "Sure. If nothing else, you can see I'm really hands-on with my clients."

He raised an eyebrow. "How long are you on duty with the snake? And why aren't you watching him at his own home if you're sitting him?"

"I agreed to take him for outings," I muttered.

"Outings?"

"I mentioned I had moved to Greenwich and his owner thought that would be an excellent way for ..." I struggled to remember the snake's name. "For Rasputin here to enjoy life, with nice long walks in the sunlight and extended sleepovers in Greenwich."

Stone laughed. "You're kidding me."

"No, he really did believe it would be therapeutic for this aging reptile, like a spa day."

"Actually, I meant you're kidding me that someone named his snake after a sadistic maniac like Rasputin."

"Takes all kinds," I said, trying to tamp down a full-on grin.

"Okay, well, I was on my way to a match, but I hope I'll see you around again. You're quite an interesting tenant, Belinda Blake. Enjoy your new home."

I waved. "I'm sure we'll run into each other."

He nodded before loping off in an elegant, tennis player way.

After walking inside and giving Rasputin a major scolding through the Plexiglas, I brewed myself a third cup of coffee before deciding I could use more sunlight. Ever since I'd moved to Greenwich, I'd had a hankering to be outside. It was a nice switch from my previous studio apartment in Manhattan.

I'd tried to maximize my small yard space by setting up a cheap red bistro table on the stone pavers on the back side of the house. It did bring a sort of international flair to my humble new abode. Anticipating a warm cup of coffee and time to wind down from the snake incident, I threw on a lightweight hoodie and walked around to the back patio.

I dusted off the metal chair and sat down. Taking a long drink of creamy coffee, I found my thoughts returning to Stone Carrington the fifth. The initial impressions I got from him were: wealthy but humble, friendly but cautious, and handsome but not obsessed with his looks.

All this added up to one conclusion. Stone was some kind of delicious enigma. It was strangely comforting to run into a wealthy person with nuance.

I stroked the glossy top of a nearby rhododendron leaf, glancing around. The carriage house was bordered by a small grassy plot, surrounded by well-kept flowerbeds that backed up to an old stone wall. Although the house secretary had told me I didn't have to weed my flowerbeds, I had an itch to do just that. Flower gardening was a passion I'd developed as a teen in Upstate New York, where I had acres to experiment with color groupings and flowerbed styles. But today I'd have to settle for yanking those nuisance blackberry sprouts the gardeners had missed.

I ducked inside to grab my work gloves, then set about pulling the lemony-green, thorny weeds up from the roots. I had worked my way halfway down the bed when I noticed something tucked into the thick boxwood hedge that ran along the stone wall. The red sole on the heel gave me pause. Could it really be a Louboutin? And only one of them? Maybe some of these nouveau riche youth had wild parties outside and didn't even notice when they lost such an expensive shoe. How very Gatsby.

I snickered. I wouldn't know the difference between a nouveau riche and an established gent in this town. It hadn't taken me long to realize that even though my family was well-respected in Larches Corner, New York, no one cared who I was in Greenwich, Connecticut.

I grabbed for the patent leather heel, but it took only a split-second for me to realize it was connected to something else. A tan foot.

And the foot was connected to a sleek, tan leg.

I dropped the heel like it was on fire, then stumbled backward onto the stone patio. I couldn't make sense of what had just happened.

There was a body lying in my flowerbed.

Struggling to my feet, I didn't take time to clear my head. I ran, willy-nilly, toward the manor house. I needed to let my wealthy landlords know there was a dead body in my back yard.

CHAPTER 2

The first person I saw was Jacques, who was driving a lawnmower directly up an incline that made me hold my breath for his safety. He appeared to be chopping and bagging the few leaves that had dared fall onto the sweeping Carrington lawn overnight. The Frenchman seemed to be quite fearless, just what I needed in this unbelievable situation.

I positioned myself directly in his path, waving my arms like a lunatic. The moment he caught sight of me, he geared down.

"There's a dead woman in my flowerbed," I shouted, gesturing to my carriage house.

"A what?" He turned off the mower and walked my way.

"A dead woman. What do we do?" My heart was pounding.

"Sacré bleu!" He grabbed my arm. "Who was it?"

"I have no idea. I didn't look at her face. I didn't know the ... protocol ... for finding a dead body outside my rental house."

Jacques took off his work gloves and shoved them in the pocket of his navy coveralls. "I will tell Mrs. Lewis and she can call the police. Perhaps you should come in with me."

Mrs. Lewis. I had forgotten the name of the house secretary, a thin, older woman with the brisk air of someone who never veered from schedule.

Today might be a bit of a shock for her.

As for me, I felt a little under-terrified. But my ability to distance myself from gruesome situations was a habit I'd perfected as I'd helped my dad with his veterinary procedures. I was able to maintain a relatively decent level of detachment unless something horrible was touching me, like a snake that wrapped its way into my hair and clothing.

Jacques led me around to a flagstone patio behind the mansion. Fountains burbled and birds chirped politely from the hedges. It really was an idyllic place, save for the dead body over in my yard.

We walked onto a fully furnished, covered porch that spanned a considerable length. Jacques pushed open a charming red Dutch door that gave onto a kitchen gleaming with steel and granite. By the time we'd made our way through five or six impeccably decorated sitting rooms, I was thoroughly lost.

Jacques took an abrupt turn into a smaller room where Mrs. Lewis sat at an antique desk, pecking at an ancient computer keyboard.

"There has been an incident," he said.

Jacques struck me as a master of calm and understatement.

I waited as he explained to Mrs. Lewis, who in turn shot several dubious looks my way. Even I had to admit it seemed strange that this body showed up at the exact time I was moving into my rental house.

Without getting my side of the story, Mrs. Lewis first called Security, then the police. Did most families in Greenwich retain their own security forces?

Her task finished, she finally walked over to me, her dainty kitten heels clicking on the dark wood floor. "Thank you so much for bringing this to our attention."

"Of course," I said, rather bemused. She'd chosen an odd turn of phrase under the circumstances. I couldn't think of one good reason I'd keep a dead body a secret.

"I will notify Mr. and Mrs. Carrington and I will let the police know you were the first on the scene. They did advise us not to touch anything ..." Her voice drifted off as she scrutinized my casual attire. For the second time today, I felt underdressed at my own new home.

"Of course," I repeated. I couldn't seem to come up with anything else to say.

* * *

Jacques stayed behind to help Mrs. Lewis as she broke the news to the family, so I had to find my own way out of the labyrinth of rooms in the manor house. By the time I got back to my own place, both Security and the police had descended on the crime scene.

I sat at the bistro table and gave my statement while keeping a curious eye on the corpse. When the officer left me to help pull the body out, I was shocked at how young the woman appeared — I had pictured a middle-aged, Botoxed housewife of Greenwich. This girl couldn't be far from my own age of twenty-six. She wore a chic miniskirt, flowing periwinkle blouse, and long gold necklace.

As they wheeled the gurney past me, I caught a closer glimpse of the body, which hadn't been zipped up yet. The woman was a bottle blonde — easy to spot since I'm a natural blonde. Her highlights were perfectly placed and well-maintained. Not cheap.

It also looked like her face was mottled — more like spotted. Either she'd had some kind of contagious disease, or all the blood vessels had burst. And given the raised red welts around her neck, it seemed pretty clear she must have been strangled.

As they cordoned off the flowerbed with police tape, my attention shifted to the security guard who had pulled up a seat next to me. The man was built like a bear, but his skin had paled and he looked like he was about to be sick.

"Do you want to come inside and get a glass of water?" I offered.

He shook his head, his eyes following the mystery woman as they zipped the body bag and loaded her into an ambulance. There would be no screaming sirens, no flashing lights for her today.

The shaky security guard spoke up. "I need to get back to the house. If you happen to remember anything else, my name's Val."

"Thanks."

As he stood, he nearly knocked the tiny bistro chair over before hurrying toward my driveway. I heard an engine rev, then he ground the small truck into gear and took off down my gravel drive. Maybe he felt more nauseated than he'd let on.

I walked back to my front door, watching to make sure Val made it back okay. But to my surprise, he didn't head to the manor house. Instead, his blue and white security vehicle made a sharp turn and he whipped into a parking space right next to the tennis courts.

* * *

That night, as I crushed garlic for my penne arrabiata, I put my dad on speakerphone.

"How's the snake?" he asked.

"Doing okay, but he had a kind of rough day, so he's still curled up in his clay flowerpot. I'm going to keep him here tonight, then take him back to the city tomorrow."

"Makes sense. Don't forget to keep his water bowl full to provide a little extra humidity in the tank. You might want to mist the interior once in a while with a water bottle, too. And be sure to flip on that heat mat you told me about. How long have you been watching him?"

"A few days. His owner will be back next weekend, after Thanksgiving."

"So you'll be feeding him." Dad was subtly reminding me that snake food doesn't come neatly packaged in a can.

"I plan to give it a try when I get back to the apartment. Nothing like handling some frozen rats." I shivered, wishing I'd come up with a different career for myself. But this job paid the bills, when combined with my video game review articles. Not to mention, it allowed me to function as my gloriously introverted self. Most days.

"Hang on — your mom wants to talk."

I heard the front porch door slam, and I imagined a breeze blowing my way from Larches Corner. Mom was probably sitting in her favorite yellow Adirondack chair, smelling like the juba oil she'd worn since I was small.

My crunchy, organic mom had no greater dream than to get off-grid someday. She actively worked at it, too, much to my dad's dismay. Her latest attempt was to install a composting toilet, which Dad categorically refused to use, for fear the waste would somehow wind up fertilizing our tomato plants.

"Sweet girl," Mom said. "How are you? All settled in?"

Mom's alto voice unleashed the emotions I'd reined in tight throughout the day. I found myself spilling the entire story of the dead woman in the flowerbed, even though I knew what would happen — I'd rouse the Mama Bear.

Sure enough, Mom launched into a diatribe. "What kind of owners let a girl die on their grounds? Do you think they covered it up? Are they strange?"

I intuited her next question before she asked it.

"Should I come down there?" What was insinuated but not spoken was: "And kick some butt?"

(Continues…)


Excerpted from "Belinda Blake and the Snake in the Grass"
by .
Copyright © 2019 Heather Day Gilbert.
Excerpted by permission of KENSINGTON PUBLISHING CORP..
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

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Belinda Blake and the Snake in the Grass 4.3 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 16 reviews.
Melissa Andres 7 days ago
Belinda Blake and the Snake in the Grass is an enjoyable cozy mystery that moves quickly and is fun to read. Belinda is a super quirky character that is an exotic pet sitter. When she moves into the carriage house of a mansion in Greenwich, Connecticut, she discovers a dead body in her flower bed, so she turns sleuth and runs all over trying to find out who the murderer is. Her quirky job, fashion style, and behavior add to the story, along with her newfound friendship with the young man of the house, Stone Carrington the V. I really enjoyed the fast pace of solving the mystery and learning more about Belinda from her own perspective. I look forward to seeing what Ms. Gilbert has next for us in the Exotic Pet-Sitter's mystery series! I received a complimentary copy of this book through NetGalley. A positive review was not required. All opinions expressed are my own.
charleneC 17 days ago
Oh my gosh! I absolutely loved this book! Full of wonderful quirky characters and an interesting story line with lots of twists and turns. A wonderful cozy whodunit! I could not put this book down! I cannot wait to read the next book in this series! I love Belinda!
Bookworm1135 20 days ago
Another amazing mystery by Heather Day Gilbert! And a fun start to a new series! I have read several of Heather Day Gilbert’s mysteries and I am always amazed by her ability to keep me on the edge of my seat and guessing until the very end. Her books make me go full Sherlock Holmes-mode in an attempt to solve the mystery before the sleuth and this one is no exception. “Well all the clues point to person x so it must be person y. Or is she trying to make me think it’s person y when it’s really some random person z I never even considered?” And yet, I was still stunned when the killer was revealed. That’s how awesome her novels are. However, my favorite part of any of Heather Day Gilbert’s mysteries is the world and characters she creates. She creates such an intriguing world filled with quirky, relatable characters that I’m just as invested in the characters’ lives as the mystery. I loved Belinda’s character and her relationships with her family. If these characters were real, I feel certain we’d be great friends. And I cannot wait to read the next novel! Not just because of the mystery, but because I can’t wait to see more of Belinda Blake, the crazy animals she takes care of, and the guy she has a crush on.
annelr 20 days ago
Belinda Blake and the Snake in the Grass is the first book in Heather Day Gilbert's new series, An Exotic Pet-Sitter Mystery and I can not wait to read book #2. Having read several of this author's books before I knew I could expect a good book and I wasn't disappointed. Gilbert is a skilled storyteller and she has crafted a story that moves quickly with several unpredictable twists and interesting situations, drawing the reader in right from the start. The characters are great--colorful and a tad quirky, likable and realistic. I enjoyed the relationship of Belinda with her family and let's not forget her interactions with Rasputin, the ball python Belinda was pet-sitting. A little humor, a couple murders, covert interrogation missions, a little romance and an ending that says there is more to come with Belinda Blake...what more could a reader who loves cozy mysteries want! I read a complimentary copy of the book from NetGalley and was not required to write a review. The opinions are my own.
swissgranny 20 days ago
The description of this story drew me right in—a young lady who pet sits exotic pets! This occupation actually seems to fit Belinda Blake perfectly as she pretty much takes life in stride. Heather Day Gilbert lets her whimsical side show in this cozy mystery. The characters are colorful and quirky, and the plot moves along well throughout the story. Well-written and well-edited, this tale kept me guessing to the end. What a great start to a new series! I voluntarily reviewed a complimentary copy from NetGalley. All opinions are my own.
KrisAnderson_TAR 20 days ago
Belinda Blake and the Snake in the Grass is a lighthearted cozy mystery. Belinda Blake earns her living minding exotic animals (no dog or cats for her) while their owners are out of town and writing video game review articles. She wanted to expand her pet sitting business and thought Greenwich would be the perfect locale. Belinda was looking forward to a quieter life and getting her hands dirty in the gardens surrounding her cottage. While doing a little weeding, Belinda finds a body. She is suddenly dashing around town with the charming Stone Carrington V. Belinda is an introvert with a quirky wardrobe who likes to read Agatha Christie, play video games, and gardening. I like that Belinda actively investigates Margo’s murder by questioning various suspects and searching for clues. There are multiple suspects, pointed clues and a red herring or two. Might even be a twist to shock you. For those who have an aversion to slithery creatures, you might find the details regarding the Rasputin a little hard to read. There are details on Rasputin’s food, his daily habits, giving the creature a bath, transporting him to Manhattan and back, and taking him for a walk (gives me the shivers). There are a couple of romantic interests for Belinda including Stone V and a dairy farmer. I felt that information on Belinda was lacking (needed more details). It was nice to get to know her family while Belinda spent Thanksgiving at home. The family farm is charming, and I found the mother humorous (makes me wish the book was set in Larches Corner). I appreciated the wrap up at the end. There is a preview of the Belinda Blake and the Wolf in Sheep’s Clothing. Belinda Blake and the Snake in the Grass is an upbeat cozy mystery with Louboutin heels, chauffeured cars, a debonair gentleman, a massive mansion, a quirky amateur sleuth, and a slithering serpent named Rasputin.
KarinKaufman 20 days ago
This fast-paced, fun, and well-written cozy mystery was thoroughly enjoyable. I loved Belinda Blake, the book's original and endearing amateur sleuth, I liked the setting (Greenwich, Connecticut), and the identity of the killer came as a total surprise. All major pluses that make this a great mystery. Now I'm dying to read book 2 in the series!
wazzy 21 days ago
I just read this book and OMG it is awesome. The action starts and doesn't let up. Belinda Blake is an exotic pet-sitter and video game reviewer. She is currently pet-sitting a python while staying in a cottage on an estate. Unfortunately a murder slides it way into her garden. She meets what could be the man of her dreams Stone her landlord's son. This is a new cozy mystery series that will keep you guessing till the end!! Belinda Blake is witty snarky and an amatuer Agatha Christie looking for clues. She is nerdy and knows her way around pop culture. If you want mystery kooky characters romance, twists, or love the show Burn Notice (gotta read the book to find out why) you won't be able to put the book down.. Hope Rasputin the snake slides his way into the next book
annie2015 21 days ago
Such a fun cozy mystery. I enjoyed reading about Belinda as she tries to unravel the murder mystery. Lots of red herrings, a cool snake, and Belinda herself makes this book with the read I received a copy of this book from the publisher, Lyrical Press, via NetGalley. My thoughts and opinions are my own and without bias or remuneration.
TheCozyReview 21 days ago
Series: An Exotic Pet-Sitter Mystery - Book 1 Author: Heather Day Gilbert Publisher: Kensington From Kensington Books, comes book one, Belinda Blake and the Snake in the Grass in a new series from award-winning author, Heather Day Gilbert. The “An Exotic Pet Sitter Mystery” will be a delightful, fun cozy series with interesting characters and unusual plots. The main character, Belinda Blake, is young, hip, and full of brilliant ideas to build her pet sitting business as well as her game review business. She is quirky and lovable with a hint of sass, and naiveté. As with all new series, there will be changes and revelations to come for characters and plots. Other characters are just as unique as Belinda, some more than others. They will become an asset to future stories and will entertain readers with their unusual characteristics, faults, and all. The first adventure in this series is a bit unorthodox, a character who is an exotic pet sitter but who seems to be timid with a snake. When Belinda finds a body buried in her back porch garden, she feels that it is imperative to find the killer, after the second body she becomes even more determined to catch the killer. Readers see her evolve and begin to like the snake as the story progresses, build new friendships, and maybe learn a life lesson or two along the way. Belinda Blake and the Snake in the Grass has moments of delight and an equal amount of head-scratching confusion. The chief victim is never known while alive, but readers will get a good sense of who she was, and even why someone would want her dead. There are quite a few twists and turns in this book, enough to keep readers guessing who the killer is until the end. The unveiling is action packed and the killer's identity unexpected. Overall, I found Belinda Blake and the Snake in the Grass to be entertaining with room for growth of the characters in future additions to the series. There are some slow parts and missing background information that should be filled out in book two. More interaction between Belinda’s family as well as her hometown and her past would be beneficial in future books. In general, this was a quick, fun read, and I recommend it to readers of all cozy genres.
Mama_Cat 21 days ago
As a fan of the author’s mysteries, I couldn’t miss her first cozy. It is even better than I anticipated! Heather Day Gilbert begins with a young woman who many readers can identify with and moves her to Greenwich, CT, where she rents a carriage house. Include the mixed blessing of petsitting a ball python and a murder just outside the carriage house, and the elements are in line for a perfect read. Belinda has taken her time finding what she enjoys doing for a living. After being in remote, interesting locations with the Peace Corp, she is growing her exotic pet-sitting business that began in Manhattan. She is a video gamer who works as a reviewer. A self-accepted introvert, she appreciates time alone and reading mysteries. She is sitting a ball python between the owner’s Manhattan home and her carriage house. I’d enjoy being a pet-sitter – but not to reptiles! When arriving at the carriage house with Rasputin, she took him out for a “walk”. She met Stone Carrington V, son of the homeowners, for the first time. As they talked, the python slithered into her clothing and started wrapping himself a little too closely around her for comfort. She was rescued by Jacques, the gardener, who snuck up on the snake and loosened its grip on her. Belinda likes working in gardens. She doesn’t have to do anything in the Carrington’s gardens, but she decided to pull a few weeds. She found more than weeds outside the carriage house, however; first she saw the designer shoe…then the body of the young woman still wearing it. The young woman was Margo Fenton, a friend of Stone V and his friends. Margo had been at the estate the night before for a Monday night billiards game. Stone V invited Belinda to dinner and to go with him to meet one of the Monday night guys that Margo had once seriously dated. He wanted to know if Dietrich, an artist, remembered Margo having any plans after the game that night but he shared nothing helpful. Stone and Belinda talked with other friends of Margo. Belinda learned things about Stone V that he neglected to tell her, such as he had dated Margo briefly after she broke up with Dietrich. Margo’s best friend, Frannie, knew Margo was seeing someone but she wouldn’t share who, even with Frannie. The police focus on Stone V, but there are at least a couple other potentials. Belinda receives an anonymous threat, and another young woman is murdered. I am impressed at the author’s use of characters her father created when she was a child. He made up stories about Belinda and her sister Katrina for long car trips. What a delightfully creative mind both Heather Day Gilbert and her father have! This is very well written, and the characters defined so well I felt a kinship with Belinda by the end of the novel. I even have reasons to kind of like Rasputin! The mystery is unique, and a challenge to solve. I chased a couple red herrings, then was completely stumped. I considered the real whodunit, but simply wasn’t sure…so I had surprises at the end. The setting of Thanksgiving and Christmas are appealing, especially during this desert summer! Overall, I very much enjoyed this novel and highly recommend it to those who appreciate well-written cozies, unusual pets, and a protagonist who is an introvert. It is a great start to this new series. From a thankful heart: I received a copy of this from the publisher and NetGalley, and this is my honest review.
MissKnu 21 days ago
Belinda Blake and the Snake in the Grassis the first in author Heather Day Gilbert's new Exotic Pet-Sitter cozy mystery series. When I first heard of the series, I was drawn in by the description, warmed up to it a bit more by the fantastically fun cover, but hooked because of the author. Having thoroughly enjoyed her Viking historical novels, I was definitely up for giving her new cozy contemporary mystery a try. And what fun I had "trying" it, right up to the very end. Belinda isn't the happily married, successful Blake sister on the cusp of motherhood. No, she's the Doc Marten-wearing, video game reviewing one who is less socially adept. But she has lucked into a rare rental, a carriage house in upper class Greenwich Connecticut. Perfect for her endeavors as an exotic pet-sitter, but when murder occurs in her back yard, Belinda is quickly out of her element in dealing with the family from the main house. Investigating the murder with the help of the scion of the Carrington family, Belinda finds that her pluck and doggedness are brought to the fore. Her investigation is interesting and entertaining, as her current exotic charge comes into play and more than one possible romantic interest (and future opportunities to explore those possibilities as the series continues) is introduced. Belinda is just off-center enough to be awkwardly relatable and the various suspects and other players, including the pets in Belinda's charge, add variety, interest, and keep the plot hopping. A very enjoyable start to a new series and I'm looking forward to reading more. If you are a fan of contemporary cozy mysteries, the Exotic Pet-Sitter series might well become a new favorite. Along with the fun titles and adorable covers, it’s a light read with just the right amount of depth and heart. This review refers to a digital galley read through NetGalley, courtesy of Kensington Books. All opinions expressed are my own.
ganderson523 22 days ago
Belinda Blake has an unusual career, one of pet sitting exotic pets and another one of writing reviews for video games. She wanted to move out of Manhattan and found the perfect spot in a carriage house on a family estate in Greenwich, Connecticut. Things start off bad when she discovers a body of a young woman in her back flower bed as she is moving in. It turns out to be that of a friend of the family. Margo was at a billiards party thrown by the son, Stone Carrington the fifth. In between taking care of a ball python and investigating the murder, Belinda is pretty busy. Since her father is a veterinarian in upstate New York, he can help with Belinda's questions concerning pet care. Her sister Katrina is a counselor and is helpful for bouncing ideas around.. This story is different from most mysteries with a snake for a character (seems like one, anyway) but it also has a cast of quirky, colorful characters and many not to be trusted. With lots of twists and turns, this will keep the pages turning and has a surprising ending that I really did not see coming. I am looking forward to the next book. I received a complimentary ARC from Lyrical Underground and Kensington Books through NetGalley. All thoughts and opinions are mine only.
caribougirl 22 days ago
3.5 stars for this clean cozy mystery. I first discovered this author with her Murder in the Mountains series and expected a similar dynamic in this one. They are not at all the same (just in case anyone else goes in with the same expectation). This one, while a clean read, is not one I would classify as Christian Fiction. It also reads more like a young adult novel (though the main character is in her 20s). Belinda Blake has finally found her wings and has moved in to the perfect little carriage house on Carrington estate in Greenwich Village. She's living her dream job as video game reviewer and exotic pet sitter. The book opens while she is taking her latest charge, a ball python named Rasputin, for a walk. As you might imagine from that tidbit, the book is infused with some humor. We are barely into the next chapter when Belinda finds a dead body in her flower bed. The rest of the book shows her adventures and shenanigans as she attempts to discover who the killer was before he strikes again! All in all, this was a good book with a decent story-line and a clever whodunit. While I suspected the killer at one point and time, I also suspected every other character in the book (outside of Belinda since it's written in first person from her viewpoint), so it was a well-done mystery. I was not too keen on Belinda's flightiness and her introspection seemed a bit immature to me (which is I why I felt this to be more of a young adult novel), but the story was still good and the ending was satisfying. I'd recommend this one to those who enjoy a quick clean cozy mystery read. I received an advanced e-copy of this book from NetGalley. I was not required to write a review and the thoughts contained herein are my own.
SusanSnodgrassBookworm 22 days ago
Once again Heather Gilbert shows her readers that she is a dab hand at cozy mysteries. A pet sitter babysitting a huge snake doesn’t deter Belinda Blake one bit. She is living in a small apartment on the estate of a super rich family when she finds a dead body in her yard. From then on, Belinda is in a mission to discover the killer. Readers are as well and Gilbert leads us on a merry chase, for I was completely surprised at the identity of the culprit. * My thanks to the publisher and author for a copy of this book via Net Galley. The opinions stated here are entirely my own.
Anonymous 22 days ago
I loved every minute of reading Belinda Blake and the snake in the grass! This book felt like home to be. I loved all the characters and Ms. Gilbert’s amazing storytelling ability made it all feel real! I recommend starting the book in the morning on a day you can just read, I couldn’t put it down, and I can’t wait for the next book in the series!