by Nancy J. Cohen
Review by Mel Jacob
Five Star Hardcover ISBN/ITEM#: 9781432825546
Date: 08 February 2012 List Price $25.95 Amazon US / Amazon UK
Marla Shore, a beautician, is busy with plans to marry her lover, police detective Dalton Vail, in a month, but first she has to do the hair of Jill Barlow and all her attendants for Jill's marriage to Arnie Hartman. She's also a bridesmaid. The wedding reception at Orchid Island is in full swing when Marla discovers the body of Jill's sister and Maid of Honor, Torrie Miller. Earlier she overheard Torrie arguing with several people. Had one of them killed her?
Torrie, estranged in the past from her sister, was now embroiled with her in joint ownership of a piece of rental property. She insists they seek a new tenant and is unwilling to consider other options. The sisters also disagree on a realtor. The property may have oil contamination from the last tenant and could require cleanup.
Employed by a local magazine as a reporter, Torrie and a rival reporter seek the same promotion at the magazine. There's also her liaison with a photographer and possible plans to leave her husband Scott. Rumor has it that Torrie has the dirt on a number of people.
Suspicion for the murder falls on someone associated with the wedding or working on Orchid Island. No one saw anything unusual before Marla found the body. The wife of the developer for the resort was a friend of Torrie and is at the reception with her husband, an avid orchid grower, who invested heavily to build the park. Torrie's rival is also covering the opening of the park and the wedding along with the photographer.
Meanwhile, determined to ensure her friend Jill is not accused of murdering her sister, Marla struggles to investigate while also juggling her wedding plans, Dalton's mother and her's participation in the wedding plans, opening a new day spa adjacent to her beauty salon, and decisions on the new home she and Dalton are building. Constantly in motion, she finds it difficult to spend time with Dalton and his teenage daughter.
Rumors surface about other land deals on contaminated sites and various building practices. It adds to worry over the new house since the company involved is also Marla's builder. Would the rumors have anything to do with the murder?
An easy read without the use of foul language so endemic in many mysteries, Shear Murder provides an interesting mystery with an exciting climax. Cohen drops in occasional Jewish phrases and practices, but explains them all. Readers might easily mistake this Five Star mystery for a Berkeley Prime Crime Mystery. Both feature female amateur detectives engaged in professions who investigate murders on the side. Kensington published the nine preceding mysteries in the Bad Hair Mystery series.