Howdy, howdy! Can you believe it’s already the last Wednesday of the month? You know what that means! It’s time for another book review. Since my mind has been drifting to my own cozy mystery, I decided to see if any new series in that genre were releasing this month. Yup! I went with the Exotic Pet-Sitter series because who can resist animals and a good murder or two? Not me. It’s by Heather Day Gilbert and the first book is called Belinda Blake and the Snake in the Grass (kind of a mouthful, I know). Since it was only released yesterday (June 25th), you would be correct in assuming that I got an Advance Reader Copy (ARC) through NetGalley. So, I must thank them and Kensington Books for allowing me access to this ARC in exchange for an honest and unbiased review, which I’ll be getting to presently.
Belinda Blake and the Snake in the Grass follows (you guessed it!) Belinda Blake as she embarks on a new phase of her life. Moving from a studio apartment in Manhattan to a carriage house on some rich family’s property in Greenwich, Connecticut, Belinda works hard to keep her exotic pet-sitting business going strong. She’s currently taking care of a ball python for a client in Manhattan who insists she carts the animal back and forth from his place to hers (because snakes need vacations too) as well as taking it for walks and even bathing it. As if that plus an embarrassing run in with the homeowners’ handsome son, Stone Carrington the fifth, isn’t bad enough, she finds a dead woman in her garden. From there, things just get stranger.
The plot of this one is pretty standard. A young woman (26) finds a dead body and gets dragged into investigating it with the hot new guy in her life, who she falls in love with, of course. But could he possibly be the murderer?! Dun dun dun… It’s a cozy, so what do you think? He’s still shady, though. And I admit that I picked out the murderer as soon as they showed up, but it took me a little while to piece together the why part, so it’s still a fun journey.
My main problem with this story is the pacing and the odd scenes that feel tossed in for no particular reason. It’s super jumpy. Things would be going along nicely, then something completely random would pop up. Like the kiss. It doesn’t feel like it belongs there to me and it’s out of character for Belinda, so it seems really forced. Then, she goes home (upstate New York) for Thanksgiving and randomly gets sent to a neighbor’s house to pick up honey. I’m guessing he’s supposed to be the rival love interest, but his part in this particular book seems unnecessary and rushed. His introduction could’ve waited for a book or two until he’s needed. There’s also this thing with escaped cows that makes no real sense and does nothing for the actual plot of the story. There are some other instances, but these stand out the most.
As far as the writing goes, it’s a little stilted in spots. The book is in first person, so we’re in Belinda’s head when we’re not dealing with dialogue. I spent a lot of time telling myself that people don’t talk that way. It’s distracting, but I was still able to enjoy the story.
Ultimately, I enjoyed Belinda Blake and the Snake in the Grass enough that I’ll check out the next book to see if it’s better. Also, I kind of want to see just how much randomness makes it into the next one.
Overall, I gave it 3 out of five stars. While many, my complaints are actually pretty minor. If you like cute cozies and animals, go ahead and check this one out. If you have too many books on your TBR lists, you’re not missing much if you skip this one.