Hairstylist Marla Vail enters a bake-off competition that's a real killer when a contestant ends up dead.
Savvy hairstylist and amateur sleuth Marla Vail enters a charity bake-off contest at a fall festival sponsored by a local farm. While she waits to see if her coconut fudge pie is a winner, Marla joins a scavenger hunt where people playing character roles are the targets. Instead of scoring points with a live person, she finds a dead body planted face-down in the strawberry field. Who would want to cut short the life of food magazine publisher and fellow bake-off contestant Francine Dodger? As she investigates, Marla learns there's no shortage of suspects. A celebrity TV chef, food critic, olive oil importer, food truck owner, pastry chef, and cookbook author may be stirring up more than their next recipe. Can Marla unmask the killer before someone else gets trimmed from life?
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Plot twists galore
Finding a body at the fall festival involves Marla in a murder investigation. There are many suspects and even more plot twists. I received a free copy of this book and chose to make a voluntary, unbiased review.
This series is the best!
Trimmed to Death is the 15th book in author Nancy J. Cohen’s Bad Hair Day Mystery series. If you’re already a fan, you’re in for a treat because this story is the best yet. If you haven’t yet read this series don’t worry, you can jump right in here and thoroughly enjoy it. The history and backstories of the characters don’t overshadow the story but are presented so you don’t feel you’ve missed a thing. Just go back and meet Marla and the gang from the very beginning; you’ll enjoy getting to know them.
The Bad Hair Day Mysteries are cozy mysteries, but cozy mysteries with a bit of an edge. Trimmed to Death is no exception. The plot is well-developed, the characters have depth and the mystery is complex. There are a lot of suspects at the beginning and a number of clues to help you try and solve the mystery along with Marla. Don’t be surprised if you can’t, because there are also a lot of twists and turns and surprises. Marla’s profession as a hair stylist adds the dimension of hair and fashion info, and her interest in food supplies delicious meal and recipe ideas. She always notices hair, skin, clothes and general appearance as well as her surroundings, and this plays right into understanding the characters and solving the mystery. Marla is inquisitive and observant with a knack for getting people to open up and through her eyes we get to benefit from author Cohen’s extensive research into a variety of subjects. Each book focuses on a different topic as part of the plot, and you find yourself being educated – in a very subtle way – about something you probably thought you weren’t interested in but find yourself learning about and enjoying. In Trimmed to Death it’s Egyptian rituals and mind-altering experiences, and Cohen does an excellent job of blending history, suspense, danger and humor. I laughed at Dalton’s behavior but I was scared for him and Marla.
By this point in the series Marla and Dalton have settled into a very comfortable marriage and family life and she’s as thrilled with him as she ever was. Stepdaughter Brianna is a pretty typical teenager, but Marla deals with it all in a positive manner and the family dynamics are sound. Author Cohen has done an amazing job of developing Marla’s character - a few books back Marla irritated me half the time but now she has become both stronger and softer at the same time, more comfortable in her own skin and less prissy with each book and therefore more likeable. She cares about people, her community, her business and especially her family and friends. Dalton values her opinions and insight and has more or less resigned himself to finding her in the middle of his investigations. His initial reaction to her finding another body: “Good God, Marla. Not another one.” To go along with the strong Marla who is determined to be an equal partner there is the Marla who sometimes doubts herself and who hasn’t quite decided about the whole baby thing. She’s come a long way from the Marla who thought having a baby would put a crimp in all her plans – no travel, too hard with work, no fun – and especially after caring for her friend Tally’s son Luke for such a long time in the previous book Hair Brained has mellowed. Luke has made her see just how sweet having a baby around can be.
As I said at the beginning of this review, Trimmed to Death is the best so far. Even though time passes, situations change and people grow, the behavior of the characters is consistent throughout the series. The mystery is intriguing and unusual and everything is satisfactorily wrapped up by the end. The story is complex and layered and the writing excellent. Cohen uses a variety of words and details that makes for an interesting read and characters with lives that seem real. Without you even noticing, she starts to wrap up story lines and build the suspense. Suddenly you realize the tension has ratcheted up, people are in real danger, and you aren’t quite sure if you’ve figured out whodunit or not.
I love the Bad Hair Day Mystery series and always look forward to the next book. Marla has become like a friend, just quirky enough to be funny, like when she says, “Gaining information from Sally was like coaxing a stubborn curl into place,” or “Holy highlights!” which always makes me laugh, but a friend you can count on and want to spend time with.
I was provided a copy of Trimmed to Death by the author. I was not asked or expected to write a review, but I recommend anything Nancy J. Cohen writes without hesitation. Be sure to read Trimmed to Death, take note of the cute cover, and check out the trailer and Instagram page while you’re at it!