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?
Includes recipes for homemade dog treats!
“When murder is unleashed in the idyllic town of Sylvan Creek, it’s up to spunky pet sitter Daphne and her darling duo of misfit mutts to catch the killer. A doggone charming read from start to finish!” —Cleo Coyle, New York Times bestselling author
About the Author
Elise Arsenault is a classically trained actor, singer, and voice-over artist. She has worked throughout the country with various regional theaters, including Merrimack Rep, Lyric Stage Company of Boston, Ivoryton Playhouse, Imagination Stage, and the Discovery Theater at the Smithsonian Institute.
Read an Excerpt
Death by Chocolate Lab
By Bethany Blake
KENSINGTON PUBLISHING CORP.Copyright © 2017 Bethany Blake
All rights reserved.
I was walking three powerful rottweilers, but I was pretty sure they weren't really to blame for my being pulled down the street like a drunken water-skier behind an erratic boat.
No, the dog at fault was a three-pound, one-eared Chihuahua with bulging eyes and a severe overbite — which he was applying, every few steps, to the bigger dogs' hind legs.
"Artie, enough," I chided him, awkwardly bending to scoop up the troublemaker. Immediately, the dogs ahead of me settled down. Straightening, I tucked Artie into a tote bag that advertised my business, Daphne Templeton's Lucky Paws Pet Sitting, and reminded him yet again, "Who's going to adopt you if you always misbehave in public?"
Artie, the most impudent dog I'd ever fostered, didn't respond. He merely poked his always trembling head out of the canvas tote, his brown eyes gleaming, like he'd been scheming for a ride all along.
"I hate to tell you, but nobody is going to adopt Artie," my sister, Piper, noted, catching up to us. She was walking with my basset hound sidekick, Socrates, who considered himself above group walks and never hurried. He shambled along at Piper's side, his droopy, solemn eyes fixed on something in the distance. He might've been interested in the dark clouds gathering ahead — a storm was definitely brewing — but I suspected that his real focus was inward. Socrates wasn't the type of dog who obsessed about where his next treat was coming from. I was convinced that he dealt with more profound issues.
"You have to admit, the Chihuahua is a mess," Piper added, glancing down at Artie, who had a long string of drool trailing from his mouth. His overbite was really bad. A shelf of tiny, crooked teeth completely obscured his weak chin. "A big, hot, steaming mess!"
"That's not exactly medical terminology, Dr. Templeton," I said. "I don't think they taught you that in veterinary school."
Piper, who wore her lab coat, because she needed to return to her practice after the walk, merely shrugged. "I just call 'em like I see them."
She was probably right, but I refused to give up on the prospect of a happy ending for Artie's so far sad story of abandonment by no fewer than three owners. Nobody could even say how he'd lost his ear. Shouldn't someone have known that?
I looked sideways at Piper. "We could ..."
I'd known Piper wouldn't agree to let Artie stay with us. She — probably wisely — kept a strict limit on the number of strays and rescues I brought home at any given time, and allowed me to have only one permanent furry family member. Socrates. Since she let me live rent free in her beautifully restored 1860s farmhouse, I couldn't really argue.
I gave Artie an apologetic look, promising, "Somebody will give you a real home." Then I tightened my grip on the three leather leads in my hand. We were approaching a corner, and while traffic in the village of Sylvan Creek, Pennsylvania — a quaint lakeside community in the heart of the Pocono Mountains — wasn't exactly heavy this hot, sticky August evening, I needed to make sure the bigger dogs were returned safely to their owner, Virginia Lockhart. Virginia, a particularly aggressive attorney, would no doubt sue me for the few things I had and would shut down Lucky Paws if one of her prize animals got so much as a scratch. Macduff, Iago, and Hamlet were champion agility dogs, worth thousands of dollars each, and I carried minimal insurance.
Shaking off my concerns, I smiled down at Artie again. "He's so ugly, he's cute, don't you think?"
"I think he's adorable," someone said in a cheerful, heavily accented feminine voice.
Piper and Socrates stopped walking, and I reined in the rottweilers, putting them in a sit.
"Hey, Giulia," I said, turning to see Giulia Alberti watching us from the doorway of her shop, Espresso Pronto, the best place to get coffee in Sylvan Creek. Giulia was a native of La Spezia, Italy, and imported almost everything she sold in her Tuscan-inspired café.
I nearly started drooling, thinking about the almond-and-lemon, white chocolate–dipped biscotti she kept in a glass jar on the marble counter.
Giulia, meanwhile, was drawn to something — or someone — else.
"Who is this sweet little creature?" she asked, smiling as she came out to join us on the sidewalk. She first bent over to set down a big bowl of water for the rottweilers, who gave her a grateful look before jostling to lap it up noisily. Then she allowed Artie to sniff her long, delicate fingers, one of which was conspicuously bare.
Would she and hotheaded banker Christian Clarke ever really tie the knot?
I couldn't ask, although everybody in Sylvan Creek wanted to know the answer to that question. Especially a waiting list of single guys.
Artie definitely seemed smitten with Giulia, too. He wriggled in delight just to be in her presence.
"You are quite the little man, aren't you?" Giulia teased, chuckling and tickling Artie's recessive chin. "Do you want a drink, too?"
Artie didn't seem parched. In fact, his drool problem worsened.
Typical man, little or not.
I glanced down at Socrates, who yawned and shook his large, wrinkled head, as if base attraction — like walking in dog packs — was also beneath him. And he certainly wasn't going to drink from a communal bowl.
Then I gave Piper a smug look that said, "See? Somebody already thinks Artie's cute!"
But my sister didn't meet my gaze. She was frowning at Giulia, who looked gorgeous, even though she was wearing a baker's apron over a basic black T-shirt and had her long dark hair pulled into a simple ponytail. Plain but large silver hoops dangled from her ears.
I had a sneaking suspicion that Piper was wondering if the rumors about her ex-boyfriend, egomaniacal dog trainer Steve Beamus, and Giulia were true. According to the town's gossip mill, Steve and Giulia had been linked romantically at one point. Maybe even while Steve had been seeing Piper.
As if realizing that she was being borderline rude, Piper finally spoke up. "Are you all set for tomorrow, Giulia? Do you need anything from me?"
"No, no," she assured my sister, shaking her head. She looked up from petting Artie. "I will set up tonight and will bring a generator for the truck. I do not even need your power." She cocked her head, so her earrings swung. "Do you think anyone will want hot drinks? I plan to serve freshly made lemonade with mint, iced coffee with sweet cream and sugar — and, of course, lots of cold, fresh water for the dogs."
"What's going on?" I asked, looking between the two women. "What am I missing?"
"Giulia, like some other local merchants, has agreed to be a vendor at this weekend's event," Piper said. "People and pets will need to eat and drink. Both days will be long and, most likely, hot."
My continued cluelessness must have been obvious. Piper lowered her wire-rimmed glasses, the better to look askance at me. "Did you really forget that we're hosting the agility trial at Winding Hill this weekend? It's a pretty big deal. Handlers are coming in from as far as Philadelphia!"
I had totally forgotten that Piper had offered a local agility club the use of her farm for a trial. "Um, of course I remembered that," I fibbed.
She clearly didn't believe me. She shook her head and sighed. "How do you run a business? Do you even have a calendar?"
"Yes, I have one of those!" I informed her.
I really did. It was dated 2011, and it was somewhere on the floor of the 1975 VW bus that served as my office, probably buried under a lot of burrito wrappers. I had a slight addiction to the vegetarian special at a cute little hole-in-the-wall shop called Burrito Casita.
"What is this agility, anyway?" Giulia asked, crossing her arms. "Something different from a dog show? Because I am looking forward to seeing puppies with fancy hairdos."
Artie seemed bereft over the loss of Giulia's attention, and the rottweilers were getting restless, so I piped up, the better to keep things short. My scientifically minded sister tended toward long-winded, technical explanations. "It's like an obstacle course competition for animals," I explained. "Handlers guide their dogs through tunnels, over fences, and across seesaws and high boards. Dogs that complete the courses quickly and without messing up win prizes. No fancy haircuts required, I'm afraid."
"It's not that simple," Piper said, correcting me. Of course, she knew quite a bit about the sport, having dated Steve, who taught classes in agility at his nationally known Blue Ribbon K9 Academy. "The courses are very complex, and the stakes can be surprisingly high. Dogs that advance to the national level can take home prizes of up to ten thousand dollars. And, of course, there are bragging rights for handlers whose animals win. Those are probably more important than ribbons, trophies, or even purses."
Giulia didn't seem to know what to make of that. Maybe dog sports and dog shows weren't such a big deal in Italy. Or, although her English was pretty good, maybe she didn't understand the dual meaning of purses and thought Piper was talking about handbags.
If she was skeptical about the value of competition itself on a metaphysical level, I had to agree. As the Chinese philosopher Lao Tzu once said, "When you are content to be simply yourself and don't compare or compete, everybody will respect you."
Amen to that.
Or maybe I was just too lazy for sports, dog or otherwise.
I glanced at my type A sibling, wondering yet again how sisters — even ones who were nearly six years apart — could be so different.
Piper and I were both doctors, but she made tons of money treating animals, while my Ph.D. in philosophy had paid off in enlightened thought, not cash. Which was fine with me.
Aside from both of us having slight frames, Piper and I looked different, too.
My older sister had aquiline features and stick-straight chestnut hair, which she usually pulled back in a tidy bun. Although she wasn't even forty, when not in her lab coat, she dressed like a schoolmarm in sweater sets and "slacks." And her intelligent brown eyes always seemed to be judging the world, which usually failed to meet her standards.
I, meanwhile, had long, thick, uncontrollably curly dirty-blond hair, which I preferred to let run wild. Sweater sets made me shudder. I liked to be comfortable in worn jeans and T-shirts that advertised a local rescue or my business. My eyes were a weird shade of greenish gray, and I was pretty sure if my sister had been blessed with the freckles scattered around my small, slightly upturned nose, she would've hired a plastic surgeon to arrange them in neater rows.
"Why are you staring at me?" Piper asked, so I realized I'd been studying her for too long. She nodded toward the rottweilers, who were lying down, post drink, but obviously restless. "Those guys are getting antsy, and I need to get back to my practice." The wind picked up, and she looked at the sky, her brow furrowing with concern. "We'd better keep moving."
"Yeah, I don't need more wet-dog smell in my van," I agreed, giving the rotties the go-ahead to stand up. I turned to Giulia. "I hope you bring biscotti tomorrow. And some of those Italian sodas!"
"Oh, I forgot to mention the sodas — which will be there," she said, grinning and offering Artie one last tickle. He nearly fell out of the tote, and I made a mental note to pester Giulia about adopting him. Nearly every business in the pet-friendly town of Sylvan Creek had a shop dog or cat, and Artie would make a great ambassador. Except for the drooling, of course. Then Giulia bent to pat Socrates on the head, but he gave her such a dead-level, discouraging stare that she thought the better of it and straightened, asking Piper and me, "Can I get you some espresso to go?" She glanced at the sky. "Or perhaps you would like to wait out the storm inside, over some gelato? I made dark chocolate today."
I really wanted some of Giulia's rich, authentic Italian version of ice cream, but I needed to return the rottweilers. "Some other time," I promised. "Thanks for the offer, though. And for the bowl of water."
Giulia smiled at my sister. "Piper?"
"No, I have to go, too," she said. Her tone was polite, but less than enthusiastic. "Thanks, though."
"Any time, bellas," Giulia said. She turned to go back into her little nook of a store, which looked very inviting, with its terracotta-colored walls and its dark wooden tables clustered on a rustic stone floor. Looking over her shoulder, she smiled and waggled her red-tipped fingers. "Ciao!"
"Ciao," Piper said glumly.
"You should never say that word again," I suggested as our little party of pets and people resumed making its way down Market Street, the main thoroughfare through town. I was a small-town girl at heart, and I never got tired of looking at the historic architecture. Sylvan Creek was especially pretty at the height of summer. Nearly every storefront boasted planters and hanging baskets that overflowed with brightly colored flowers. As Piper, the dogs, and I strolled under the balcony of the Sylvan Creek Inn, which dated back to the early 1800s, the hotel's gas lamps flickered on. "'Ciao' just doesn't sound right coming from you," I added. "You're not a 'ciao' kind of girl."
Piper didn't reply. I suspected she knew that I was right.
All at once, Sylvan Creek's signature antique streetlamps flickered to life, too. It was getting that gloomy. Several shops also had their lights on, including two of my favorite haunts: a pet store called Fetch! which stocked locally made organic treats and unusual toys, and a tiny specialty bookstore called the Philosopher's Tome, which had lots of cozy nooks where a person who should have been drumming up clientele for a pet-sitting business could get lost reading about everything from Aristotle to Zeno.
The stores were owned by Tom and Tessie Flinchbaugh, a middle-aged married couple. Given that I was usually the only customer in Tom's bookshop, I was pretty sure Tessie's busy pet emporium kept her husband's store afloat.
As we passed by the Philosopher's Tome, I saw Tom sitting on a worn, overstuffed velvet-covered chair in a turret that was one of my favorite spots in the converted Victorian house. When he saw us passing by, he rose, shoved up one of the windows with effort, and leaned out. "I got a new ... meaning old ... copy of Seneca's Letters from a Stoic," he informed me. The wind rumpled his graying hair and made his rosy cheeks even pinker. "Stop by when you want to check it out."
I loved that Tom never made me buy anything. When he said "check it out," he wasn't suggesting that I just look at the volume. He frequently let me borrow books, like he was running a library. In return, I always volunteered to watch his and Tessie's ancient poodle, Marzipan, for free. But the truth was, the Flinchbaughs didn't go out much and had never vacationed, that I knew of.
"Thanks, Tom," I said. "I'll be in."
"Don't forget that Marzipan has an appointment with me Monday," Piper added.
Tom didn't reply. He just nodded, hurrying to close the window against the coming storm. In the distance, the first streak of lightning crossed the sky. Socrates and Artie seemed unconcerned — well, Artie shivered constantly, so it was hard to tell if he was nervous — but big, supposedly tough Macduff, Hamlet, and Iago flinched.
If any of the trio — especially the pack leader, Macduff — ever really bolted, I'd be in serious trouble, so I forced myself to stay calm. Animals always fed on human emotions. And there really was no reason to panic. My van was half a block away. At least, I was pretty sure I'd parked my distinctive, flower power–pink VW in a space obscured by a huge, shiny green pickup truck.
"Will Tessie be selling dog stuff at the trial?" I asked, waving to the proprietor of Fetch! who was kneeling in the display window, tying a cheerful summery bandanna around the neck of the shop's mascot, a life-size plush Irish wolfhound called Shamrock. Although I didn't think Tessie Flinchbaugh was more than fifty, like her husband, she appeared older. She was stout, with silver-streaked hair, and had a penchant for wearing shirts that featured seasonal embroidery. She had sunflowers on that day. I saw them when she waved back at us. As Piper and I moved past the store, I returned my attention to my sister. "You said there are other vendors coming. And it seems like dog people would like her high-end merchandise."
Excerpted from Death by Chocolate Lab by Bethany Blake. Copyright © 2017 Bethany Blake. 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.
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
It would be cute if the main charecter was not so stupid.
Opening during a walk with Axis, Artie, MacDuff, Iago, Hamlet, Socrates and their person Daphne introduce us to the story. See Daphne lives with her veterinarian sister Piper as she tries to get her business off the ground Fully grounded in her animals, if a touch out there for humans, Daphne’s degree is in Philosophy, which while great fodder for stories and unique thinking doesn’t necessarily pay the bills out of an academic setting. Laden with personality – the dogs steal the show and provide a clever bit of humor and ‘only a dog person’ could understand. While Daphne has her mind on the business end of things, Piper’s practice is solid, but her love life is in shambles, even though she is trying to keep a civil working relationship with her ex Steve, a K-9 trainer in town. But, when Steve is found dead, the clearest suspect for detective Jonathan Black is Piper, and Steve’s dog Axis, a chocolate lab is missing. Poor Daphne – she knows that her sister didn’t kill Steve, but poor Axis is out there, somewhere, alone and she presumes scared, and perhaps he can help her find the real culprit. Early on, the book was quick reading and clever, jumping nicely from one scene to the next with plenty of doggie hijinx in the mis. While slowing and dragging a bit after that, the story is clever and twists aplenty even as I often wished for more answers sooner without so many twists. Still, this was a wonderful story that is sure to please animal lovers, and shows great promise for future installments. I received an eArc copy of the title from the publisher via NetGalley for purpose of honest review. I was not compensated for this review: all conclusions are my own responsibility.
I just loved this book! It was a great new start to a fun cozy series, featuring some of the funniest, zaniest, lovable animals I want as my own!! I definitely want to get to know Detective Black better, just like Daphne, our lovable protagonist hopes to do as well! Daphne and Piper are fun characters who have a very caring relationship as sisters. You will be guessing who the murderer is until the very end and then nodding your head, asking yourself, how did I not see that coming! I can't wait to lay my paws on the next book in the series!
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.
CUTE RELAXING MYSTERY BOOK, BUT WITH ANIMALS AS CHARACTERS TOO...ENJOYABLE
I enjoyed this first in a series, it's off to a good start. Daphne is a pet sitter who lives with her sister. When she finds the dead body of her sister's ex boyfriend dead on her sister's property when setting up for an agility trial, the police look at her sister as suspect. Daphne is described as a free spirit however I did find her immaturity a like not putting enough gas in her van (twice) a little annoying. Other than that she is likable enough, I did love her interaction with Detective Black he is a perfect accompaniment to her flightiness. The mystery was good and kept me guessing. I hope to see Daphne doing a little more of her job of pet sitting in upcoming books, I don't think that there was enough in this one. I will continue on with this series, it was a fun read, especially with a one eared Chihuahua with an overbite. There is the added bonus of recipes for pet treats in the back.
Really enjoyed this new cozy! Loved the characters and all the pets. Can't wait to read what happens next.
Title: Death By Chocolate Lab - Lucky Petsitting Mystery Book 1 Author: Bethany Blake Publisher: Kensington Books Published: 2-28-2017 Pages: 304 Genre: Mystery, Thrillers & Suspense Sub-Genre: Women's Fiction; Amateur Sleuths, Cozy Mystery, Animals ISBN: 9781496707383 ASIN: B01GBAG2T0 Reviewed For NetGalley and Kensington Books Reviewer: DelAnne Rating: 4.25 Stars 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? The first in a series that draws the readers into the story and holds their attention to the very end. Filled with great characters and is well written using a humor to keep it light. From the moment readers open the book you begin to build images of the characters and scenes so that you feel you are in the middle of everything. My rating of "Death By Chocolate Lab - Lucky Petsitting Mystery Book 1" is 4.25 out of 5 stars.
Sylvan Creek, Pennsylvania is becoming one of my favorite towns to visit. The characters in this book are so much fun. I really love the banter between Daphne Templeton (owner of Lucky Paws Pet Sitting) and the new Detective in town Jonathan Black. Daphne's sisters EX-boyfriend Steve Beamus ends up dead on her sister Piper's property it doesn't look good. Daphne must try and find the killer before her sister is charged with the murder. When she starts asking around it seems there no shortage of people who wish the worst for Steve.... Then, there is a second murder. This book was a lot of fun, and it was extremely hard to put down!! I am very much looking forward to the next book in the Lucky Paws Petsitting Mystery Series!! I am hoping to catch up with all the folks in Sylvan Creek.
I won this book as part of a Goodreads First Reads giveaway. Daphne Templeton is a free spirit. With a mother who puts her career first and a sister, Piper, who's life has to always be in order, it's a wonder that Daphne is such a carefree individual. She's also an animal lover. Running a pet sitting business in the quaint little village of Sylvan Creek, Daphne's biggest concern is usually what not to call her relationship with her not really but kind of sort of boyfriend, Dylan. That all changes when her sisters ex, Steve Beamus, is found dead and Piper is the main suspect. Can Daphne and her furry entourage find the real killer or will the new easy on the eyes detective, Jonathan Black, arrest her sister for murder? Score one for Miss Blake because this book is a winner! I can't say enough how much I loved it. Full of wonderful characters, a cute little town, and a shocking ending, I enjoyed this tale from start to finish. Daphne is great as the protagonist with just the right amount of quirkiness to make her antics humorous without being ridiculous and silly. Her sister Piper, who is an uptight veterinarian, did initially annoy me but the farther I got into the story, the more it worked for me. But best of all was the dogs! I have to admit they were my favorite part. Each one with a distinct personality, they were fun and entertaining right from the beginning. For those that enjoy a little romance with their mystery, there is a love triangle. Or at least the beginning of one and these two men could not be more different. Dylan is the laid back surfer/hippie/vegan type whereas Jonathan is intimidating, a meat eater (something Daphne is not), and also happens to be the new detective in town investigating the crime. Him and Daphne are pretty much polar opposites but their chemistry is obvious and their banter was a lot of fun. Although Daphne does have somewhat of a relationship with Dylan, I think he would be more suited for her sister. Someone needs to loosen that one up. As far as the murder, there were plenty of potential suspects to keep you guessing. When the big reveal came, I was both surprised and a bit sad at the same time. I definitely plan on adding the next installment to my "to read" pile and recommend this for any cozy fan who loves dogs.
This book hit a lot of the usual cozy tropes, but what I really liked were all the dogs! Sisters Daphne and Piper share a home, and even though both work with animals, are quite different. When an agility trial event is being set up at their farm and Piper’s former boyfriend winds up dead, Daphne’s natural nosiness kicks in. I liked the Sylvan Creek setting and Daphne is surrounded by some characters that I hope will continue to flourish in the next book. The new detective in town and Daphne's pseudo boyfriend add a bit of romance, but not anything that detracts from the mystery too much.
I got a free copy of this book from the publisher through netgalley and voluntarily reviewed it. This was such a fun and enjoyable read and I am looking forward to book 2. The mystery was very well done, with some good twists, secrets that come to light and red herrings. I was convinced I knew who the murderer was until a twist made it clear I was wrong. I only figured out the real murderer seconds before Daphne did. The pets where a big part of the book and I liked that. It also was great how each pet had their own personality and characteristics, just like the human side characters. Daphne was a great main character to read about I could relate to her and I liked how realistic she acted. She wasn't perfect and had some flaws, but I liked her quirky personality and love for animals. I also liked reading about her interactions with the other characters. I especially enjoyed the scenes involving her and detective Jonathan Black. All in all this was a great start of a new series and I am looking forward to read more by this author.
For the most part, I really enjoyed this book. It's the first in a new series and a solid, delightful start to the series. I gave it 4 stars instead of 5 because a) it didn't have that extra pizzazz that I look for in a 5-star book and b) the heroine annoyed me at times with her tendency to just go full steam ahead into something without thinking about it first (which is something that *REALLY* tends to bother me in cozies). Outside of that, this is a great book. The characters are solid, developed and complex. We know there are things about the various characters that we don't know yet, but that makes them interesting and not boring. The setting descriptions were okay. I could imagine the farm and each individual location but I couldn't really see in my head where they were in relation to each other. Part of that could be my own spatial relations deficiency, but I think the descriptions of the places could have been a little more detailed. The story moved along at a good pace. It wasn't slow but it wasn't so fast that you couldn't keep up with what was happening. The villain was a complete surprise to me, which I like. I totally did not see that plot twist coming! All in all, this is a great start to the series and I do recommend it. I've already pre-ordered the second one for myself! ** Many thanks to Netgalley for providing me with an ARC of this title. I was not compensated for this review. All opinions and conclusions expressed are my own. **
Enjoyable New Cozy Series I received a complimentary copy of this book from the publisher Fans of dog filled cozy mysteries have a new series to enjoy in Bethany Blake’s Lucky Paws Petsitting Mysteries if the first book, Death by Chocolate Lab, is anything to judge by. Likeable characters, loveable dogs, a touch of romance and a good amount of comedy made Death by Chocolate Lab an enjoyable read. Doggie friendly recipes also added a nice touch. Ms. Blake does a great job introducing the main character, Daphne Templeton, right from the start. A single woman living with Piper, her older sister, in a small town, Daphne has a PhD. In Philosophy and operates a local dog sitting service. Smart but a bit disorganized, Daphne is sort of dating a local guy and is fiercely devoted to her dog, her sister and pretty much any stray that crosses her path. When Piper is implicated in the death of her ex-boyfriend, Steve Beamus, Daphne is determined to prove her sister’s innocence, especially since she doesn’t believe Detective Jonathan Black, a real “hottie”, is looking in the right places. She’s also worried about Steve’s dog, Axis, a chocolate Labrador, who just happens to go missing when Steve is murdered. The secondary characters were well developed and I enjoyed getting to know Piper, Daphne’s sister and the town’s veterinarian, Moxie, Daphne’s best friend, and Jonathan Black, who is not only good looking but also happens to be much better at his job than Daphne first gives him credit for. I have to admit that the dogs in this story do sort of steal the show; I especially enjoyed getting to know Socrates, Daphne’s Basset Hound, and Artie, a one eared Chihuahua with a severe overbite, that Daphne is temporarily fostering. Artie seriously made me laugh. The mystery is fairly well written and the story’s pace is quick at the start, though it does bog down a bit in the middle. Fortunately the pace does improve and there were enough twists and turns to keep me interested in the story. Ms. Blake’s voice as an author seems to be fairly well established and I enjoyed her writing style. I believe that the story’s pace issues will be resolved as the series becomes more established. I have high hopes for its success. Will Daphne discover who killed Steve and why? And where is Axis? Will the developing chemistry developing between her and Detective Black develop into anything? You’ll have to read Death by Chocolate Lab to find out. I enjoyed it and can’t wait to read the next book, Dial Meow for Murder, when it is released this fall.
Dollycas’s Thoughts A Chocolate Lab names Axis, a Chihuahua named Artie, 3 huge rottweilers named Macduff, Iago and Hamlet and a Basset Hound named Socrates are all on a walk with pet sitter, Daphne Templeton and her sister Piper as the book starts out. Piper is a veterinarian and with the exception of her love life things are going well for her. Daphne lives with her rent free as she tries to get her new pet sitting business started. Piper’s ex Steve Beamus, is also part of this animal world in Sylvan Creek. He runs the Blue Ribbon K-9 Academy. They are all going to be together for a dog agility event at Piper’s farm. But when Steve is found dead in a unlikely place on Piper’s property, the event come to a barking halt and Piper is the first name on the list of prime suspects. Plus Steve’s dog Axis is missing. Daphne has no choice. She needs to find that dog and prove to Detective Jonathan Black that her sister had nothing to do with Steve’s murder. But she may be biting off a little more than she can chew. As a dog lover I was in love with the canine characters well before the end of chapter one. 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 very well to do client. Axis, the victims dog is missing throughout most of the story and I was as anxious as Daphne to know that he was safe. In addition to the 4 legged characters the story is filled with an great and unique cast of human characters. In addition to the sisters and the deceased, we meet Detective Jonathan Black. He is new in town, easy on the eyes and really doesn’t think Piper is guilty. Daphne, if she is honest with herself, would like to get to know the man better. Virginia Lockhart, owns the rottweilers with her politician husband but I think she loves those dogs more than she loves him. Mr. Peachy lives in a cottage on the farm and is sort of like a grandfather figure to the girls and helps out around the farm. We also meet some Sylvan Creek merchants. All the characters are well fleshed out and believable. The story starts out at a good clip. The murder happens in the early chapters. Then the pace slows down almost too much but does pick up again. I usually read a book in two evenings. The slower pace gave me a good stopping point the first night and then I quickly finished it up on night two. The mystery itself had plenty of suspects and when we reached the big reveal it just knocked my socks off. I was absolutely, and totally surprised. The story also reached a happy place at the end for two of the doggies and that made the reader very happy. These characters were very engaging so I am excited for their next story. The Lucky Paws Petsitting Mysteries are off to an excellent start!
Pet sitter Daphne Templeton does not care for her sister Piper's arrogant boyfriend Steve Beamus. But, that doesn't mean she wanted to find him dead after an argument with Piper. Daphne butts heads with the new detective Jonathan Black while trying to find the clues to clear her sisters name. Often Daphne is accompanied by a pack of dogs and the pack grows as the story moves forward. I really enjoyed this story. Daphne is a vegetarian, new age woman who believes in what's right. She is smart but, often jumps into thing with her heart, not thinking it through until it is too late.
Death By Chocolate Lab is the first book in the Lucky Paws Pet Sitting Mystery series. This was a fun and exciting start to a new series, but I felt that more time than was needed was spent describing the antics of her dogs, Socrates and Artie. I am owned by a Westie and like dogs in general, so that comment isn’t made by one who doesn’t like animals Daphne Templeton has a fledgling pet sitting business and lives with her sister, Piper, on a beautiful country farm. An agility trial for dogs will be held at Winding Hill, Piper’s farm and vendor and exhibitors have come in the night before to set up for the show. One of the attendees, Steve Beamus owner of the Blue Ribbon K-9 Academy and quite controversial, has come in to set up the agility run, but by the early light of morning it is clear that the agility run hasn’t been completed and Beamus is nowhere to be found. As other volunteers are completing the run, Beamus’ body is found in a tunnel that is part of the run. But when Detective Jonathan Black begins to interview people, his suspicion keep coming back to Piper as the possible murderer. Not only is Ivy concerned about clearing her sister as a suspect and finding the killer, she also wants to find Beamus’ champion Chocolate Lab who evidently went missing when Beamus was killed. I found the book to have a very interesting story line and interesting characters Also included are recipes for your pups. I’m looking forward to reading the next book in the series.
This is a great book; this is the first book in the Lucky Paws Petsitting Mystery series written by Bethany Blake. 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. 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. This is a great book with a wonderful story and well developed characters. This book will keep you reading long into the night. If you are looking for a great book, then you need to read this book. I am looking forward to reading the next book by this great author. I voluntarily reviewed an advanced reader’s copy of this book. The free book held no determination on my personal review.
Death by Chocolate Lab by Bethany Blake is the first book in A Lucky Paws Petsitting Mystery series. Daphne Templeton lives in Sylvan Creek, Pennsylvania with her sister, Piper (their mother, Maeve lives in the town as well). While Daphne has a PhD in philosophy, she runs Daphne Templeton’s Lucky Paws Pet Sitting (now many job opportunities for someone with a degree in philosophy). Her sister, Piper owns Winding Hill Farm (and is the local veterinarian) and is hosting a dog agility trial competition the next day. Late that night, various vendors show up to set up their tents. Steve Beamus, owner of Blue Ribbon K-9 Academy arrives to set up the course. Steve is not well-liked because of his condescending, superior attitude and womanizing ways. The next morning, Daphne is out early with her dog, Socrates and her foster dog, Arnie (a little Chihuahua with an overeager personality and an unfortunate overbite). Arnie enters the course and dives in a red tunnel. When he does not exit, Daphne crawls in to get him. She gets a shock when she discovers the body of Steve Beamus. The new to town Detective Jonathan Black is in charge of the case and happens to hear a private conversation between Daphne and Piper that puts Piper at the top of the suspect list. Daphne is determined to prove her sister’s innocence to the detective. There is no shortage of suspects for the murder of such an unlikeable victim. Daphne, with the help of her canine sidekicks, starts questioning her list of suspects. When Daphne is out late one night for a clandasdine meeting, she discovers the body of Virginia Lockhart in the park. Virginia must have stumbled upon the killer and paid the ultimate price. Daphne will need to up her game if she is to find the killer before he strikes again (and she stumbles across another body)! I found Death by Chocolate Lab to be easy to read. I like the various dogs included in the story and there are some good recipes for dog treats included at the end of the book. I enjoyed the mystery that Bethany Blake created in Death by Chocolate Lab. I do not think that many readers will guess the identity of the murderer. You will need to utilize deductive reasoning to identify the perpetrator (really think about all the people in the book). I give Death by Chocolate Lab 3 out of 5 stars. I thought that Daphne was too quirky (nicest word I can use). Daphne has a PhD in philosophy (she is also a vegetarian). It takes intelligence and time to get a doctorate degree. But the author then made her out to be a babbling idiot who cannot remember to keep gas in her car. Daphne has not managed to get her life together and lives with her sister who likes to remind her of this frequently (that she does not pay rent). She drives a 1960s era VW bus that breaks down as frequently as it runs out of gas (she puts in $5 and then drives 10 plus miles and is shocked there is no gas). The car has the worst paint job on the planet. It is supposed to depict a dog (for her business), but it looks like a horse (of course). I wish the author would have let Daphne be an intelligent, confident woman. It would have made for a more appealing story. Then there is the situation with Jonathan Black. It seems he is very handsome and Daphne cannot help but notice him (every time she sees him). While Death by Chocolate Lab is not the right book for me, I believe others will enjoy the humor.
A good start to a new series. I very much enjoyed DEATH BY CHOCOLATE LAB during the first several chapters. It was a very quick read, (I love short chapters in a book), and I found myself flying through the pages, learning about protagonist Daphne Templeton, and her sister Piper, Daphne’s petsitting business Lucky Paws (thus the name of the series), and meeting canine characters, Socrates and Artie, as well as a few townsfolk. As I mentioned above, during the first eight or so chapters, things moved rather swiftly, making it hard for me to put the book down. However, there were slow scenes further into the story that, honestly, if the chapters had been long ones, I would have found it hard to get through them. I know most authors have a word count that must be observed, (depending on the publisher), but there were parts of the book that would have been better if they had been trimmed back. All that being said, I think author Bethany Blake can make the Lucky Paws Mysteries into a great series. She has created some likeable characters that I look forward to seeing grow as she continues to flesh them out, and her cast of pups already have a place in my heart. Blake is a good writer, and I very much want to read the next in the series when it releases. If you are a lover of adorable dogs, I suggest you give DEATH BY CHOCOLATE LAB a try. If you do, be sure to check out the back of the book for recipes for dogs and humans (though some of the dog recipes sounded like something I’d eat), and read an excerpt for book two the Lucky Paws Petsitting Mysteries, DIAL MEOW FOR MURDER.
Death by Chocolate Lab by Bethany Blake is the first in a new series, Lucky Paws Petsitting Mysteries. The book was paced rather slowly in the beginning; but I understand that the author was trying to create the world of Sylvan Creek and the characters. The pace did pick up in the last half of the book which kept me turning the pages. I never really felt that I connected with Daphne. Maybe if I understood more of her back story that would have helped me. Daphne seemed to be very independent but rather flighty and would plunge headlong into situations without really considering the consequences of her actions. I did enjoy Detective Jon Black as he was both likable and professional as he was investigating the murder. I was intrigued by his back story and definitely want to know more about him. I also enjoyed Piper, Daphne's sister and her mother as they added some humor to the story with their interactions with Daphne. The mystery kept me guessing until the very end! I was totally blown away by the reveal as the protagonist was never on my radar. If you enjoy cozy mysteries with animals and recipes, you might want to give this one a try. I voluntarily reviewed an Advance Reader Copy of this book from Kensington via NetGalley.
Death by Chocolate Lab is the sweet start to a new series by new to me author Bethany Blake. Our heroine Daphne Templeton is a quirky hippy type pet sitter with a heart of gold. She lives with her type A veterinarian sister Piper in a big house in a small town. There is of course two men vying for her attention laid back surfer dude Dylan who is a vet assistant for Piper and the new cop in town Detective Jonathan Black. There is also an adorable assortment of canines and a murder or two to solve. I enjoyed every moment I spent in their company. I will probably try out some of the treat recipes included at the end.
As a first in a new series, Death by Chocolate Lab was fantastic. Daphne Templeton is a fun, down to earth character who will be loved by all readers. Getting her business off the ground as a pet sitter is a bit of a struggle, but her companions make it worth it. Artie is a Chihuahua who only has one ear, drools and wants to be the center of attention. Socrates is a basset hound who enjoys keeping a stiff upper lip. These lovable canines live with Daphne and her sister Piper, a veterinarian who believes in doing the appropriate thing all the time. When murder disrupts their lives, Daphne can't help but attempt to sniff out the bad guy. I really enjoyed the book. It kept my attention from beginning until the end I was shocked when all was revealed. This has the potential to become a favorite series with many cozy mystery fans. I voluntarily read an ARC of this book provided by the publisher and NetGalley.