Synopsis: Audrey Faye sashays into Violetta’s Salon looking for stylists for the Miss Magnolia Blossom pageant. Hairdresser Grace Terhune’s opportunity quickly turns into a nightmare with anti-pageant protestors, angry mothers, frantic contestants…and then, a very dead Audrey. The murder weapon was a nail file, making Violetta’s manicurist, Stella, the prime suspect. Now Grace must find the real murderer before she is polished off permanently.
I really enjoyed the first in the series which was ‘Tressed to Kill‘, so I was really looking forward to this, unfortunately it has some really big problems. First of all chapters 1 and 2 are a bit of a waste of time, the author merely recaps the first book. It’s tricky writing the second installment of a series few of the many cosy authors I’ve read have really pulled it off. The characters have lost their unique voices and most conversation is exposition, which is a shame, on top of this there is some oddly vulgar language. I have no problem with profanity when it assists the story or characterisation, but all it does here is burst the reader’s bubble because it doesn’t suit the genre or the characters. As if this wasn’t bad enough the whodunnit element doesn’t really take-off, the opening of Chapter 31 made my heart sink as, all at once, I saw a clichéd ending hurtling towards me out of nowhere. When a sleuth has failed to work out the ending it’s usually a cop-out by an author who has failed to plot properly or provide adequate cluing, and this one was no exception. Yes the sleuth ends up trapped with the murderer. Yawn.
That said, there is some wonderfully descriptive prose and Lila Dare really sets a wonderful scene. New characters are introduced smoothly and despite the poor cluing there is a focus on the whodunnit. I think the problem In addition, her main characters are very likable, so for all my complaining I’m still glad I read it and I’m hoping the next installment will be an improvement and I intend to read it. In short – I like how Lila Dare tells a story, unfortunately this story isn’t as fabulous as the first.