Samantha Kidd leaves her sixty-hour-a-week job as a buyer for a major New York store to work as a trend specialist for a store in her old home town. Her first day on the job, things start going wrong. Within minutes, she sees her new boss lying dead in an elevator. In a light mystery like this, the author has to walk a fine line between trivializing death and loss, and writing humor around it rather than about it. Samantha’s reaction to her boss’s death is human, appropriate for the level of connection she had to him. It’s an effective beginning which made me care about both the main character and the mystery.
As a narrator, she’s likeable and energetic, with a self-deprecating sense of humor. Her personal story is engaging—in one career move she is both starting over and coming home. She’s better cut out for being a trend expert than a detective, but her motive for trying to take on that role is solid. It would be a spoiler if I told you more, but she couldn’t possibly have a higher personal stake. In an amateur sleuth story, I find it more believable when the amateur is highly motivated like this, and when she isn’t always good at detecting—doesn’t completely outsmart the professionals. In her determined effort figure out who committed the crime and why, Samantha makes progress but also misses major clues and makes a few near-fatal mistakes.
Though a couple of details in the final resolution of the mystery stretched my suspension of disbelief, the plot kept me turning pages, curious what would happen next. I was rooting for Samantha to notice those clues she overlooked. Even though I’d picked up on them, I still didn’t know whodunit, only that these things were clues to something. Overall, this book is tightly crafted. The characters are colorful but not caricatured, and the romance subplot shows promise for the series. I enjoyed the setting in the fashion industry. It’s fun when a protagonist has profession about which I was previously ignorant, and I learn something about it in the course of the story. A cozy mystery with good characters is like a well-made dessert with quality ingredients. Indulge yourself in this one: it’s a delightful treat.