The Llama Of Death (A Gun Zoo Mystery #3), by Betty Webb
When I read this book my first thoughts were that the book was enjoyable and somewhat dark, a tale about the strange connections between people and the way that they deal with murder as well as the loss of trust in others. But upon thinking about the work in greater detail, and especially with the context of the third book my library had in the series, this book is not nearly as enjoyable as it was before. For one, this book is written by someone who has little understanding of religious people and our motivations and seems to simply enjoy making fun of Christians for laughs. This was easy to ignore when reading the book, but given the author’s general political worldview and how it infests this series, it became a lot less enjoyable in the context of her work as a whole. The heroine is one of those dumb women who puts themselves in danger and there is a lot of pretending about identity that is unsettling in the context of a small town where everyone is assumed to be more or less trustworthy. This novel increasingly shows that it can be enjoyed only by those who share the same worldview as the author, and that’s not the case with me.
As is the general conceit of the series of novels, an animal is associated with a death. This time the PTSD-suffering llama who has been with Teddy Bently as she volunteers for a Renaissance fair happens to be spooked by the murder of a wedding chapel owner who is found to be an escaped murderer from prison who had used an assumed name, thus invalidating the weddings that he had overseen. As the people of his country (many of whom apparently don’t go to church and have trustworthy ministers) deal with the loss of their marriages, Teddy finds herself dealing with the stress of her mother being the prime suspect for the murder thanks to the bungling of the acting sheriff, since Teddy’s hunky fiance Joe, the actual sheriff, is doing some sort of secret training with the FBI and Department of Homeland Security in Virginia and is unable keep in touch with the crime spree going on in the county. Of course, Teddy’s mother, who prefers to go by Caro, finds herself some friends and engaging in some leftist protests, which the author is strangely tolerant towards given her immense hostility towards white racism. The tangled web of relations and fake identities leads to a dramatic showdown where our heroine emerges triumphant, as usual.
This is competently written fiction. It is by no means great fiction, but the author at least is a worthwhile writer in her genre. This isn’t the sort of book that is likely to win any awards, unless for political reasons, but at the same time you can do a lot worse than read this sort of book. The only thing that makes this book, and the series as a whole, somewhat difficult to take is the way that the protagonist serves as the mouthpiece for the author’s rather unpleasant social views. It is unsurprising, given these views, that these books are set in coastal California where they come off as normal instead of as extreme as they are. The author seems to have spent too much time dealing with corruption to the extent that she wallows in it. It seems unlikely that I will be returning to this series or this author, given the way that these books serve as mouthpieces for the author’s leftist political and social views that I have no tolerance for.