Death by Diamonds (A Vintage Magic Mystery)
by Annette Blair
Cover Artist: Kimberly Schamber
Review by Gayle Surrette
Berkley Paperback ISBN/ITEM#: 9780425233139
Date: 06 July 2010 List Price $7.99 Amazon US / Amazon UK / Show Official Info /
Madeira "Mad or Maddie" Cutler, the owner of Vintage Magic, is once again pulled into a mystery when her friend, actress Dominique DeLong, sends her the gown Maddie designed with a note that says she's dead. Eve confirms by showing Maddie an article in the New York paper about Dominique's collapse and death after a performance of her new play Diamond Sands. Shocked and shaken by the death, Maddie decides, after talking with Dominique's son, to go to New York and see what she can learn and to offer Dominique's son moral support.
Of course Eve Meyers can't allow Maddie to go alone, best friends support each other during times of stress. Also, Maddie's on-again off-again boyfriend, FBI Agent Nick Jaconetti, decides to join them as he may be able to help with his police contacts. Detective Sergeant Lytton Werner feels left out of the adventure, but arrives in New York when it looks like Maddie and Eve may be in danger.
Blair manages to keep the story moving smoothly as Maddie investigates Dominique's death. In gathering the clues, there's the usual madcap adventuring and misadventure that a reader would expect when untrained people are trying to find a murderer. However, in this case with a brother and a boyfriend in the FBI and a grade school enemy now a police officer, Maddie does have some clues about investigations and chains of evidence. However, Maddie's ace in the hole is her ability to touch vintage or used clothing and see what the wearer saw or felt. It's a limited ability and that makes the clues she gains open to interpretation. Maddie does tend to jump, or sometimes pole vault, to her conclusions and that keeps the plot moving and the reader engaged.
This is the third book in the series and Blair still manages to take us in new directions and to keep the series fresh. Maddie is a wonderful character and her ability to read vintage clothing is interesting and sometimes helpful, but it isn't a magic trick that will solve the crimes. The solution takes gathering clues and putting them together in the right order with the correct sequences and connections. Which means that while this talent is useful it's not 100% effective in solving the crimes.
Because Maddie runs a vintage clothing shop, has worked in fashion design, and is developing her own line of fashionable garments, the stories always contain a lot of fashion information, tips, chapter heading quotes, and information about the fashion industry. I've always been a bit of a tom-boy and my idea of high-fashion is making sure my jeans don't clash with my t-shirt but, even I, find these bits interesting and informative even though I'm closer to Eve in my fashion choices -- one can never go wrong with basic black. If you enjoy a fun, high-excitement, snappy dialogue, mystery, you can't go wrong with Death by Diamonds.