Friday, October 13, 2006

Dolled Up For Murder - Deb Baker



Dolled Up For Murder
Deb Baker
Berkley Prime Crime

Mystery/ Cozy

Any time the phone rings at 3 a.m. you know it can’t be good news. Gretchen Birch answers one of those late night phone calls to hear her Aunt Nina, dramatic as always, telling her that Caroline, Gretchen’s mother, is missing. And that an acquaintance of her mother’s was just found, dead. Gretchen isn’t at all convinced that anything is really wrong, but takes the next flight from her home in Boston to her mother’s home in Phoenix. For once, it appears that Nina wasn’t being quite dramatic enough.

Martha Williams, a one-time doll collector until bankruptcy took everything she had, has spent the past few years homeless, and in an alcoholic haze. Her sad life ended when she took a fall on Camelback Mountain. In her hand was a note that read “Caroline Birch. Put her away.” It’s certainly enough to make the police want to take a look at Caroline, a collector and restorer of antique dolls. Add in the fact that Caroline’s house is situated at the foot of the Mountain, and that witnesses identified Caroline leaving the scene, and it’s clear that she’s in deep trouble. She’s also missing. Gretchen and Nina, both very familiar with the doll collecting community, know that Caroline would never have killed anyone, no matter how bad it looks. They decide to do a little investigating themselves.

This is the first in a new cozy series, and it’s very entertaining. Each chapter is headed with an appropriate quote from a book written by Caroline. While the book may not exist, the information is fascinating, and most helpful to those unfamiliar with the world of dolls and doll collecting. Gretchen is a great new character. She’s intelligent and realistic, and doesn’t simply leap into situations without thinking. Nina, who trains purse dogs, is a more free-spirited character, but the author takes care to make her believable and likeable. The story follows Nina and Gretchen investigating in Phoenix; and Caroline, as she frantically moves around, trying to remain undetected. This sort of dual storyline works perfectly here, and keeps the plot moving at a brisk pace. I’ll look forward to seeing more of these characters in the future.

Rating: 7 ½
October 2006
ISBN# 0-425-21263-7 (paperback)

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