Dipped, Stripped, and Dead (A Daring Finds Mystery)
by Elise Hyatt
Cover Artist: Jennifer Gennari
Review by Mel Jacob
Berkley Paperback ISBN/ITEM#: 9780425230787
Date: 06 October 2009 List Price $6.99 Amazon US / Amazon UK / Show Official Info /
Elsie Hyatt's debut mystery, Dipped, Stripped, and Dead, features furniture salvager and refinisher, Dyce Dare. When she tries to retrieve an old tea table from a college dumpster, she discovers a gelatinous corpse. She manages to free the table and hide it in the trunk of her vehicle before calling the police. Dyce believes the victim is a woman from the hair on the corpse's head.
The police find someone used lye on the victim and consider Dyce a suspect because she sometimes uses it to strip old paint. However, she has no lye vat, which would be necessary to immerse a body.
When she reaches home, she finds her best friend, Ben Colm, upset over an argument with his live-in lover Les Howard. Dyce considers Les an effeminate weirdo ready for the loonie bin. High strung, he takes offence at the any imagined slight. He and Dyce dislike each other. Ben, one of those organized people who keeps emotions to himself, frustrates Dyce in the extreme, but their friendship goes back to middle school when he saved her from bullies some seventeen years ago.
Meanwhile, Dyce struggles to maintain a friendly relationship with her ex and his new wife for the sake of her two-year-old son, Enoch. They hold very different views from Dyce on child rearing and want sole custody of the boy. At two, he refuses to talk to anyone but Dyce and an occasional word to Ben. He also is adept at escaping and running away.
The policeman in charge of the murder investigation takes a personal interest in Dyce. She calls him Officer Hotstuff, but not to his face. Ben tries to encourage a romance between the two.
Strange events happen in Dyce's apartment and worry her and Ben, but she tries to minimize them. Someone leaves a meat cleaver embedded in her kitchen table. Then, she finds one of her son's stuffed animals hanging from the shower curtain rod. "Bitch" is painted beside the front door and elsewhere in the house and her underwear is rifled.
The police worry these events may signal the murderer's warnings to Dyce. She believes they relate to the tea table she found and a mysterious notation on its underside. She refused to tell the police about the table because they would consider it evidence and confiscate it. Always strapped for cash, Dyce believes the sale of the refurbished table could bring in enough money to keep her and Enoch for months.
Meanwhile, Les set a fire in Ben's loft, but Ben insists it's nothing serious and despite the damage and destruction persists in trying to see Les and set things right., Dyce guesses the policeman has asked Ben to keep an eye on her so when Ben tries to see Les, she slips away at the first opportunity.
Another murder occurs and the body is found in Dyce's workshop. Fortunately, she has an alibi. The novel includes a set of furniture refinishing tips. Labeled the first of a new series called Daring Find Mysteries, others are certain to follow.