Monday, April 3, 2017

Death of a Toy Soldier by Barbara Early

Reviewed by Jeanne

When a man shows up with a box of old toys, Liz McCall isn’t surprised.  Toy appraisals are a staple at Well Played, the family’s toy and game shop.  That her father isn’t around to do the appraisals isn’t a cause for surprise either, but may be a cause for concern.  Her pun-loving dad is allegedly retired from the East Aurora, NY police department, but he’s prone to slipping out and making the occasional citizen’s arrest—a habit which does not endear him to the new chief of police.  Things get even stickier a few days later when the potential customer turns up dead in the shop, his toys are missing, and her dad is claiming amnesia.

Liz doesn’t have to be a cop’s daughter to know that looks very, very suspicious.

Death of a Toy Soldier begins the Vintage Toyshop Mystery series, and it acquits itself well for a first in series.  Often such books spend many pages doing the set-up (acquainting readers with the various characters, locales, business, and so forth) which can bog down the story, but this one keeps the narrative moving along.  There’s a nice assortment of characters and character quirks, the seemingly requisite two potential beaus for the leading lady, and the “gimmick”—in this case, antique toys.  

While this was a good, solid book to spend time reading during lunch, I confess I felt a bit let down.  I had read and enjoyed the author’s earlier Bridal Bouquet Mystery series (written under the name Beverly Allen), so my expectations were perhaps higher than they should have been.  With the first series, part of the delight was learning the language of flowers along with the mystery. In the new series, toys were name-dropped (Risk, Clue, etc.) but I didn’t really learn much about them.  The only memorable toy comment was one about the history of monopoly, but not too much information was given. This is no doubt a plus for some readers who don’t care for extraneous information but it’s something I actively enjoy and rather expected, much the same way that readers expect recipes or cooking tips when reading a cooking mystery. 

And yes, there is a cat.  His name is Othello (presumably for the game and not the general) and he is a charmer.

The mystery itself was competently done and clues were fairly delivered.  The characters have potential, though Dad tends to steal the show.  I’m hoping the next book will explore the personalities a bit more and that toy information and history will be worked into the narrative. Based on her previous books, I think she will deliver.

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