by Cynthia Chow
& Sandra Murphy
Enjoy another fun group of Penguin mystery reviews & giveaways this week–again with fashion settings. A Custom-Fit Crime: A Magical Dressmaking Mystery By Melissa Bourbon, Tulle Death Do Us Part By Annette Blair, and Laced with Poison: Sweet Nothings Lingerie Mystery By Meg London. Details on how to win all three at the end of this post.
A Custom-Fit Crime: A Magical Dressmaking Mystery By Melissa Bourbon
Review by Cynthia Chow
Although no one is more excited than Harlow Jane Cassidy when she learns that she and her clothing designs will be featured in D Magazine, there are impending signs of doom that all may not go as planned. Her good friend, Orphie Marie Cates, just arrived unexpectedly early, ostensibly to help with the magazine shoot but actually with the very disconcerting news that she has not only stolen the design book of their former employer and mentor Maximilian, but that she may have taken some of his ideas as well. Before Harlow has time to learn more, the other featured designers, Midori and Michel Ralph Beaulieu, arrive for the magazine photo shoot, with the latter bringing a condescending attitude, massive ego and propensity for “borrowing” designs. When he suddenly drops dead in Harlow’s Buttons and Bows bathroom, suspicion falls on Harlow who had just had stood up to his patronizing declarations.
Most uncomfortable of all is that the investigation is led by Deputy Gavin McClaine, the son of the Sheriff Hoss McClaine who just happens to be in the midst of planning his wedding to Harlow’s mother. With Tessa Cassidy declaring that she can never marry a man who might suspect her daughter of murder, plans are on hold although Harlow is determined to see the wedding through even as she suffers from designer’s block when creating her own maid of honor dress.
Fearful that Gavin, who has commenced to either date or interrogate Orphie, will fail to discover the murderer before the impending wedding or another designer is killed, Harlow begins her own investigation into who wanted the plagiarizing Beaulieu dead. Having previously written basic puff pieces for D Magazine, Harlow wonders why Lindy Reece seems so sure that she has a Pulitzer in her future. Jealousy has always reigned in the beauty-driven fashion world, and the catty New York models brought in for the photo shoot do little to counter the stereotype. Thankfully, Harlow is aided by the Cassidy trait passed down through women that grants them special magical gifts, with hers being the ability to envision and then create the perfect clothing that will make all of the wearer’s wishes come true.
Although this charming mystery series includes the ghost of Harlow’s grandmother who haunts Buttons and Bows, she is mostly concerned with matchmaking and seeing that Harlow grows closer to Will Flores and his designer-in-the-making, teenage daughter Gracie. The true fun and fascinating elements of this mystery are the machinations and complexities of the fashion world, from backbiting Amazonian models to the “on-trend for a minute” designers.
Harlow, who has given up the “glamour” of high fashion couture, is far happier creating beautiful clothing for real women who appreciate designs that bring out their true inner beauty. She also guides Gracie as she grows into her own newly discovered gifts, something Harlow truly values as she herself came upon her powers only recently and very unexpectedly. The Cassidy women, descendants of Butch Cassidy, carry the magical charm as well as spirit and relentless determination of their ancestor, making them thoroughly enjoyable and the strongest of allies. The author, who also writes the Lola Cruz mysteries under her name Melissa Bourbon Ramirez, continues this fourth in the series with as much humor, magic, and fashion as any reader could ever desire.
Tulle Death Do Us Part By Annette Blair
Review by Sandra Murphy
Maddie runs a vintage clothing store but she handles most of the clothes with gloves–literally. If she touches them, she’s drawn into whatever was happening the last time the garment was worn. Sometimes that’s a happy surprise, sometimes embarrassing and occasionally, downright scary.
This time, a mysterious box is found during a remodel of the store. It’s wrapped in vintage fabric which is part of an old dress. The vision hints at murder; mayhem is a given. The time is the 70s and the place is the country club. What starts out as a simple scavenger hunt turns into a life changing event for more than one of the scavengers.
Maddie’s dad and sort of stepmom are in charge of the Vintage Valentine ball. They plan a This is Your Life segment as part of the fiftieth anniversary celebration. Only five people can be chosen for that part, but there are entries galore. Participants are asked to bring in the gowns and tuxedos they wore fifty years ago and Maddie has to be very careful which ones she touches. Each vision brings more clues.
Eve, her sidekick and BFF, is always up for adventure so she’s willing to take her Goth-dressed self along on the hunt for clues. Dante, the resident ghost, is a fount of information as well. There’s love in the air–and not always in the most expected places…
How can you not love a book that opens with “Last night I bedazzled a hard hat”? The characters are going through a lot of personal growth in this book, from Maddie’s Dad, Eve, Dolly and Werner the cop–all have great story lines. Dante and the visions are a little woo-woo but really, it’s not intrusive or distracting. It just fits like a vintage dress.
Other books in the Vintage Magic mysteries include: A Veiled Deception, Larceny and Lace, Death by Diamonds, Skirting the Grave, Cloaked in Malice. (Reviewed for KRL)
Berkley Sensation titles include: The Kitchen Witch, My Favorite Witch, The Scot, the Witch and the Wardrobe, Sex and the Psychic Witch, Gone with the Witch, Never Been Witched, Naked Dragon, Bedeviled Angel, Vampire Dragon.
Laced with Poison: Sweet Nothings Lingerie Mystery By Meg London
Review by Cynthia Chow
At first, a vintage lingerie trunk show for wealthy socialites seems to be the perfect solution for Emma Taylor and her Aunt Arabella to pull her boutique Sweet Nothings lingerie store out of the debt incurred by an act of vandalism. The wealthy mayor’s daughter-in-law, Deidre Porter’s gorgeous house seems perfectly suited for the event, although her selection of guests is much less desirable.
Jessica Scott, administrator for Sunny Days Retirement Community, manages to rub all of the attending women the wrong way and that includes her former sorority sisters, one of whom is Deidre. However, when Jessica is found unconscious in the Sweet Nothings restroom and never recovers, Emma and Arabella optimistically hope that it was a natural death. Unfortunately, the ladies soon learn that Jessica was poisoned by one of the cupcakes baked by the not-so-tiny Bitsy Palmer at her Sprinkles bakery, and were decorated with deadly foxglove. What’s even more regrettable is that the decorative edible flowers on the cupcakes were collected by Liz Banning, Emma’s best friend and the brother of the man Emma has had a crush on since they were teenagers.
Having moved back to Paris, Tennessee to help save the floundering lingerie store and recover from having her heart broken in New York, Emma gave up a life as an in-demand stylist, but she definitely has her hands full purchasing new collections and planning events to save her aunt’s store. Seeing Liz suffer doubts about her culpability is more than Emma can endure, so she, her aunt and an unwilling resident of Sunny Days, investigate the retirement community where a surprising amount of professional jealousy, theft and hidden secrets may have been motives for wanting the unlikable administrator dead.
Author Meg London, who also writes the Gourmet De-lite Mystery Series under the name Peg Cochran, unfortunately handicaps both this novel and the previous debut in this series with the flaw of laying out the clues too early and too obviously, unfortunately making it easy for the reader to identify the culprit. Emma also well displays an impressive amount of bad judgment when she accepts a beverage from someone she actually believes committed murder through the use of poison. Fashion and romance definitely dominate the novel, as Emma sorts through her feelings for Brian, which are complicated by the investigating detective who seems bedazzled and completely enamored with her.
Readers looking for a frothy novel of fashion, easily likable characters and a heroine who is struggling to find a new purpose and identity will be pleased.
To enter to win a copy of all 3 Penguin mysteries, simply email KRL at krlcontests@gmail[dot]com by replacing the [dot] with a period, and with the subject line “Fashion,” or comment on this article. A winner will be chosen August 3, 2013. U.S. residents only.
Click on this link to purchase any of these books & a portion goes to help support KRL!
Check out other mystery articles, reviews, book giveaways & short stories, including more fashion related mystery reviews & giveaways in this very issue, in our mystery section.