Author: Betty Webb
Publisher: Poisoned Pen Press
ISBN  9781464200663 HB

ISBN :  9781464200687 PB

Anthropomorphic is what I am and I always will be. Investing every animal I come across with human qualities is natural for me and I’m pretty sure it’s the same for author, Betty Webb, the creator of the Gunn Zoo mystery series. The Llama Of Death, the latest in the series, features Zookeeper, Theodora ‘Teddy’ Bentley ably assisted by llama, Alejandro, a resident of the Gunn Zoo located in California’s Monterey Bay coast.

Teddy and Alejandro have been drafted by the Gunn Zoo owner to work at a Renaissance Faire to publicize the zoo and raise money for a local animal shelter. Alejandro, a sensitive sort of guy, delights in giving rides to children but adults are a different matter. Rescued by zoo staff after being badly treated by his owner; his happy yips turn to barks when confronted by people who invade his comfort zone.

Llamas act as guard animals in South American countries; wild dogs and wolves leave livestock alone if there’s a llama around – they don’t want to get trampled. Teddy and Alejandro, good buddies, she is always around to make sure pushy people don’t turn the pitter patter of Alejandro’s hooves into a dangerous stampede.

All the staff at the fair have time travelled to Henry VIII’s Merry Olde England: Teddy is dressed as a fair young maiden, the minister from the local wedding chapel, Victor Emerson, perhaps because he doesn’t need padding under his costume, playing King Henry. Minstrels, jesters, you name it — there’s even a leper roaming the fairground for the amusement of visiting families.

Bedding down at the fair, Teddy is awakened in the middle of the night by Alejandro’s screams. Dressing in a rush, she sprints to the rides enclosure. Alejandro has every right to be upset – he’s sharing his bedroom with a dead body. Victor Emerson is lying face down in the dirt. Terrified Emerson might have wandered into the enclosure by mistake and spooked her llama buddy, causing him to attack with his killer hooves, Teddy reluctantly calls the police.

Acting Police Chief, Elvin Dade, for whom the phrase ‘dumb and dumber’ was created, tramples the crime scene and after pulling a cross bow dart out of Emerson’s chest declares Alejandro off the hook when it’s pointed out to him llamas are not great at archery. Teddy’s sigh of relief is short lived as next morning Dade arrests her mother, Caro. Extremely annoyed at Emerson passing her over for the part of Anne Boleyn, Caro was overheard saying that killing him was on her to-do list. 

Everything above her waist that can be nipped, tucked or enhanced done, Caro, despite not being in the bloom of youth, is a trim, taut, really attractive woman. Between husbands, she takes the opportunity to check out the attorney Teddy hires to defend her, with a view to matrimony.

Caro, released from jail with a new beau, Teddy can get back to doing what she loves; being a zookeeper. But wait a minute…  there’s another murder and Teddy discovers that workers at the fair all have pasts, pasts they would rather keep hidden. Police

Chief Dade, unable to solve one murder, let alone two it’s up to Teddy and Alejandro to stop the fairground killer. 

The Llama Of Death, fast paced and funny, Betty Webb has created a cast of weird and wonderful characters who parade their virtues and vices in an exciting entertaining plotline. My favourite character was, of course, Alejandro – like to hug him big-time.


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