Copyright: February 2012 (Signet) 320 pgs
Series: 2nd in Magical Dressmaking Mysteries
Sensuality: mild romance
Mystery Sub-genre: Cozy paranormal mystery
Main Character: Harlow Jane Cassidy, Manhattan fashion designer who has moved back to her small hometown
Setting: modern day, Bliss Texas
Obtained Through: Publisher for an honest review
The murder of a Casanova Golf Pro with Harlow's scissors at the local country club, disrupts the town's tradional annual 'Margaret Moffette Lea Pageant and Ball, where the debutants are displayed in period costumes. Zinnia, Senator Jebediah James' wife, has been Harlow's patron and best word-of-mouth advertising has been held by the police in connection to the murder. Harlow jumps in to help the pageant go on as scheduled, but she feels strongly that she must help Zinnia clear her good name.
This book is all about the web of secrets spun in people's lives. Harlow is a descendent from Butch Cassidy and all the Cassidy women possess a special gift of some kind. For Harlow, she can sew up the perfect dress that helps a person tangibly in their life. But the Cassidy women try to keep their little gift/curse a secret. But she is finding there are more Cassidy family secrets than she cares for. As Harlow investigates the town's Casanova, she finds many secrets such as illegitimate children in the pedigreed families. But there is one secret among them all that got the promiscuous golf pro killed.
I like Harlow, but she seems even busier in this book, which makes it hard to really get to know her much. What does shine forth is her compassion for others. Her mother seems even more flighty this time around which I am finding a bit annoying. The potential love interest, Will Flores, is well portrayed. He is a compliment to Harlow thus far with just enough male flaws (come on, you know what I mean ;-) to make him realistic. I think the author portrays the teens in the story particularly well.
The plot was not as obvious as you might imagine. The pacing maintained a sense of urgency when two elderly seamstresses are in danger, which also added complications to the storyline. The sense of place was acutely present in every sentence, from dialect to the tradition of the pageant.
The confrontation with the killer was tense and a little bit of a nail biter, but I have to admit that the killer's identity seemed to come from left field. I liked that I did not anticipate who the killer was, but I also felt like there were no clues to indicate this person either - not even a teensy hint. Which made me question if that was a cheat or just good writing. Hmmmm. Any thoughts readers?
Overall, I like the main character, the plot kept me reading and engaged, the setting was fully integrated, and the revealing of the killer was dramatic - so it met all my main criteria strongly. The wrap-up successfully has me anxious for next book in the series. I have been really burned out on books set in small southern towns lately, but this one is my only exception. If you don't care for paranormal books, this book is primarily a cozy with only moderate paranormal touches.