by Cynthia Chow
This week we are reviewing the first in a brand new mystery series, A Killing in Costumes by Zac Bissonnette–even though it’s not a Halloween mystery costumes make me think of Halloween! We also have a fun interview with Zac. Details at the end of this post on how to enter to win a copy of the book, and a link to purchase it from Amazon.
A Killing in Costumes: A Hollywood Treasures Mystery by Zac Bissonnette
Review by Cynthia Chow
Once they were the hottest ’90s soap opera couple on television, merging their success as a singing duo into a real life marriage. But when Cindy Cooper and Jay Allan revealed the truth, as both came out of the closet, neither Hollywood nor middle-America were prepared to accept them. After divorcing but remaining best friends, Cindy went on to build an L.A. financial planning career and marry the woman who was the love of her life. Esther’s death led her to sell the business, move to Palm Springs, and join Jay in opening their dream memorabilia shop, appropriately called Hooray for Hollywood Movie Memorabilia.
Unfortunately, the business is running dangerously in the red when a lifeline appears in the form of 1950s Old Hollywood femme fatale Yana Tosh. According to her financial advisor, the nonagenarian is interested in possibly selling her vast collection of Old Hollywood movie props, costumes, and other memorabilia. They aren’t the only ones interested in taking her on as a client, though, with Dylan Redman of Cypress Auctions presenting not just a mock catalog but an impressive PowerPoint presentation. So when Dylan is found suspiciously dead after their meeting, the very handsome Palm Springs Detective Simon Fletcher arrives on their doorstep with a lot of questions.
As the possibility of going out of the business takes a second seat to the threat of being arrested, Cindy and Jay begin to use all of their Agatha Christie, Columbo, and private-investigator noir knowledge to begin their own tentative investigation. Yana’s abrasive son, Dylan’s ambitious assistant, a gossip maven, Yana’s financial advisor, and even Yana herself top the list of those with motives and means for the murder. In between their negotiations with a Hollywood diva, Jay and Cindy tool around town in her Jurassic Park jeep, soothe their tuxedo cat Mae West and Rin Tin descendant German shepherd Bob Hope, and hopefully make a non-lethal killer deal to save their store.
This first in a new series introduces a unique and very charming detective duo. Through chapters that alternate between the third-person viewpoints of Cindy and Jay, readers are given compelling details about these two very likable friends. Cindy is still reeling from the death of her wife, a loss lightened by the unwavering love and support from her ex-husband. Jay’s pessimism about ever finding true love himself has him reluctant to engage with the suspicious detective, which is rather appropriate considering the latter may believe them both guilty of murder.
Details abound concerning Golden Age Hollywood sets, props, and the compulsion to collect memorabilia. That movie props are so linked to our fantastical view of celebrities and nostalgic memories make them unique in the collecting field and can quickly lead to obsession. This original exploration of the entertainment business is endlessly fascinating with the potential of leading to many more crimes and intrigue. The realistic depiction of the relationship between Cindy and Jay is one rarely seen in mystery fiction, and readers should look forward to seeing more of their friendship, banter, and collecting adventures.
INTERVIEW WITH ZAC BISSONNETTE:
KRL: How long have you been writing?
ZB: Gosh, well, my first personal finance book came out in 2010, when I was still in college. I’ve written other things since then, but A Killing in Costumes is my first novel, and the most fun I’ve ever had writing anything!
KRL: Can you tell us a little about it?
ZB: Jay and Cindy were married in real life twenty years ago—and they played a married singing duo on a popular soap opera. When they realized they were gay, they came out and lost their careers. They got divorced but stayed best friends and now, twenty years later, they’re back together as business partners to open Hooray for Hollywood, a Palm Springs memorabilia store specializing in movie props.
Business is slow but there’s a chance at a turnaround when Yana Tosh, a 90-year-old former film vixen, comes to them, looking to sell her seven-figure collection of costumes. But when their rival for the deal ends up dead, Jay and Cindy are the prime suspects.
KRL: Why did you choose to write a mystery?
ZB: It’s what I’ve always loved, cozy mysteries especially. You know, there’s so much misery in the world, and I think there’s something about watching people use their wits and a network of friends to restore justice, don’t you think?
KRL: I totally agree! What else have you written?
ZB: My last book was The Great Beanie Baby Bubble: Mass Delusion and the Dark Side of Cute. A film version of that is actually in post-production, starring Zack Galifianakis, Sarah Snook, and Elizabeth Banks. I can’t wait to see it!
KRL: Oh how fun! What brought you to choose the setting and characters for your book? Will this be a series?
ZB: It’s funny, it’s a very specific thing.
Right before Covid hit, I bought, at auction, a painting of Jessica Fletcher, created by a pretty famous studio artist for an episode. I hung it on my wall and instantly had this idea for a cozy mystery series about a Hollywood memorabilia store in Palm Springs. I’m very excited because I’m actually doing an auction of that piece later this year, with all the proceeds going to the Entertainment Community Fund.
KRL: I am a huge Murder She Wrote fan. Do you write to entertain or is there something more you want the readers to experience from your work?
ZB: I definitely try to write a crime novel like the ones that entertain me. But it’s fun to include real-life issues I care about—like financial crimes and the gay experience.
KRL: Do you have a schedule for your writing or just work whenever you can?
ZB: I only write on weekends.
KRL: What is your ideal time to write?
ZB: Mid-morning. Which I feel like is a boring answer because everyone seems to either say very early or late at night. But I get to the library at 11:00 a.m., because that’s when it opens! I love writing at the library because I can take breaks to look at books I love, which is so inspiring.
KRL: Do you outline? If not, do you have some other way that you keep track of what’s going on, or what needs to happen in your book when you are writing it?
ZB: I do a chapter-by-chapter outline, but it’s usually only a couple sentences per chapter. Just to make sure I have the basic plot right.
KRL: What are your future writing goals?
ZB: I’d like to just keep writing mysteries and hopefully get better at it with each one.
KRL: Who are your writing heroes?
ZB: Jenn McKinlay, Miranda James, Dick Francis, Robert B. Parker, Jonathan Kellerman.
KRL: What kind of research do you do?
ZB: Google and Wikipedia! But I also interviewed the top entertainment memorabilia dealer in the world, which was a lot of fun. I included the interview with him as an author’s note at the end of A Killing in Costumes.
KRL: What do you like to read?
ZB: Mostly mysteries. Cozies, of course. Historical mysteries lately, but also suspense and narrative nonfiction about obsession. Susan Orlean, I think, is the best nonfiction writer in the world.
KRL: What are your favorite TV shows or movies?
ZB: Murder, She Wrote. Nothing else close.
KRL: Have you any advice for aspiring or beginning writers?
ZB: Nothing that hasn’t been said before: try to write the kind of books you love to read.
ZB: I’m sure it’s possible to write cozy mysteries without a cat in your home, but, for the life of me, I can’t imagine how, nor have I ever heard of anyone who’s done it. Here’s Perry Como, dressed, as always, in his tuxedo, ready to go on stage, with a copy of my book.
KRL: Do you have any pets?
KRL: Is there anything you would like to add?
ZB: Only to say that I think you do a marvelous job with King’s River Life and have really built it into a bible of the cozy genre, and I’m eternally grateful for that, first as a reader and now as a writer.
KRL: Thanks so much for the kind words! Website? Twitter? Facebook? Instagram?
ZB: ZacBissonnette.com. And I’d be so honored if you’d sign up for my newsletter. For cat photos and hot takes, check Twitter.com/zacbissonnette.
To enter to win a copy of A Killing in Costumes, simply email KRL at krlcontests@gmail[dot]com by replacing the [dot] with a period, and with the subject line “costumes,” or comment on this article. A winner will be chosen October 8, 2022. U.S. residents only, and you must be 18 or older to enter. If entering via email please include your mailing address in case you win, it will be deleted after the contest. You can read our privacy statement here if you like.
Check out other mystery articles, reviews, book giveaways & mystery short stories in our mystery section. And join our mystery Facebook group to keep up with everything mystery we post, and have a chance at some extra giveaways. Also listen to our new mystery podcast where mystery short stories and first chapters are read by actors! They are also available on Apple Podcasts, Google Play, and Spotify. A new episode goes up next week.
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Disclosure: This post contains links to an affiliate program, for which we receive a few cents if you make purchases. KRL also receives free copies of most of the books that it reviews, that are provided in exchange for an honest review of the book.
This sounds like a fun book to read!
Interesting concept. Like to get in onthe
beginning of a series. thanks
Such a different book, it sounds like a lot of fun.
A little fun in the California sun? Don’t mind if I do. Thanks! crs(at)codedivasites(dot)com
Sounds like a fun read! Love the cat’s name, Perry Como.
I enjoy cozies! tWarner419@aol.com
We have a winner!