Death of a Toy Soldier by Barbara Early is the 1st in the new Vintage Toy Shop Mystery series (Available October 11, 2016).
It is no secret that I am a big fan of Barbara Early’s cozy mysteries. Just take a peek at the praise I heaped on Bloom and Doom, the first book in her Bridal Bouquet Shop mysteries, written as Beverly Allen.
See also: Review: Bloom and Doom by Beverly Allen
I am delighted that, as Barbara Early, she is writing the Vintage Toy Shop series filled with humor and warmth.
In Death of a Toy Soldier, Liz McCall has the best job in the world. She and her father run a vintage toy shop called Well Played. It's a place I wanted to visit as soon as I noticed that the telephone was “custom painted—and mounted on wheels—to resemble an iconic pull toy.” Both my children dragged the Fisher Price Chatter Phone all around our house and spoke on it in words only they could understand, so vintage toys equal fond memories for me.
Although running a vintage toy shop where local villagers gather to play board games and exchange gossip seems idyllic, there is one little problem. I’ll let Liz explain her father, Hank McCall:
Now, many retirees dabble in their former occupations. They become consultants. Advisors. But most aren’t cops. And they certainly aren’t chiefs of police who had sustained a near-fatal gunshot wound in the line of duty.
After that came retirement and fulfilling his lifelong dream of opening Well Played. Most of the time he appeared happy in his new line of work. But on a bad day—and I had a feeling this was a very bad day—he’d seem to forget all about his grand retirement party and hefty settlement and would gather his “stuff,” including handcuffs and his legal firearm, and head back out to maintain law and order on the not-so-mean village streets.
And on one such day, a man comes to the shop with a box of exceptional vintage toys with the hope that Liz’s father can give him an estimate of their value. Since Hank has wandered off to combat crime, Liz offers to hold the items for a few days until her father has a chance to look at them. The man leaves the toys along with his business card.
Liz rounds up her father, reads him the riot act, and all seems normal again, until a few nights later when Liz hears banging and clanging in the shop in the middle of the night. She creeps down from the apartment above and finds her father in the shop. But, instead of answering her questions:
He shook his head and pointed down the aisle from where he had just come…If anyone messed with my father, he was going to have to deal with me.
When I turned down the aisle, however, there was no menacing figure. I focused on the parka first, lying there in the aisle. But it wasn’t empty. Below it was a pair of legs. I inched closer and recognized the man who had visited the shop earlier in the week with a box of toys. Only difference was, then he didn’t have a lawn dart in his chest.
So you can see Liz has a big problem. Does a girl really have a choice when her father is the prime suspect in a murder? Former police chief or not, things don’t look good for Hank McCall.
I have to say there are lots of interesting characters here, not the least of whom is the hunky new Chief of Police, Ken Young, who is extra nice to Liz. Is that because he respects her father or because he has an eye on Liz?
The vintage toys that we meet throughout this book are nothing short of fascinating. They are guaranteed to bring a nostalgic childhood memory to us all. I promise you the puns that fly back and forth between Liz and Hank will make you laugh out loud. I loved this book and I strongly recommend you pour a cup of tea, curl up on the couch, and read Death of a Toy Soldier.
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Agatha Award winning novelist Terrie Farley Moran is the author of the beachside Read 'Em and Eat cozy mystery series including Well Read, Then Dead, Caught Read-Handed, and Read to Death. Her web address is www.terriefarleymoran.com