Wednesday, September 12, 2007

Goodbye, Dolly - Deb Baker




Goodbye, Dolly
Deb Baker
Berkley Prime Crime

Mystery/Cozy

Gretchen Birch left Boston when she discovered her longtime boyfriend cheating on her. With a summer intern. Now living with her mother in Phoenix, Gretchen feels like she’s really come home. She’s started her own doll repair business under the tutelage of her mother, Carolyn, an expert on collecting and repairing all kinds of dolls. This is a bit of a problem for Gretchen, since this leaves her alone for her first doll show. Her Aunt Nina has promised to help, but Carolyn and Gretchen know that Nina marches to her own drummer.

In fact, Nina takes a table with a doll appraiser and spends her time showing off her miniature puppies. She trains tiny dogs to ride around in their owners’ purses. Looks like her business is going to be taking off in a big way after this show. Meanwhile, Gretchen is taking in dolls for repair and selling vintage Vogue Ginny dolls from her mother’s stock. She should have more to sell; twelve more, in fact. She purchased them at an auction, but somehow the box of Ginny dolls got switched with a box of Kewpie dolls. The Kewpie buyer disappeared, and his address turned out to be phony. It was at the same auction that Brett Wesley, the auctioneer’s business partner, was killed in a bizarre car accident.

Also in attendance at the show is one Ronny Beam, a sleazy reporter who just started his own weekly paper and is aiming for the big time. Sadly for everyone, he plans to get there by printing stories of a fantastical and possibly actionable ilk. Having Ronny hanging around her table is bad for business, so Gretchen is almost glad to see her ex, Steve, arrive. Almost. Steve has decided that he’s waited long enough for Gretchen to come to her senses and take him back, and he’s come from Boston to make sure that happens. Gretchen isn’t having it, Ronny and Steve have a heated argument, and Ronny leaves the show. Soon after, Ronny is found in the parking lot, dead. He was beaten with a tire iron, but there’s a utility knife in his back. A knife marked with the same pink polish that Gretchen used to mark her tools before the show.

There are plenty of suspects in this follow-up to DOLLED UP FOR MURDER. Ronny was not well liked; nearly everyone he ‘interviewed’ might have reason to do him harm. As before, the members of the Phoenix Dollers are on hand to lend help, advice, and a bit of interference. Detective Matt Albright, son of the doll club president is making progress in getting over his phobia of dolls; and he and Gretchen are edging closer to each other. A nice dollop of humor keeps the tone mostly light, and the pace is every even.

The author makes great use of Phoenix, its gorgeous surroundings, and its sometimes-eccentric inhabitants. As an added bonus, some of the chapters begin with ‘excerpts’ from Carolyn’s book about dolls and contain information fascinating to collectors and neophytes alike. This cozy series looks to have some serious staying power.

Rating: 6 ½
September 2007
ISBN# 978-0-425-21770-2 (paperback)

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