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by Ellen Byerrum
Signet, July 2007
290 pages
ISBN: 0451221788

Buy in the UK | Buy in Canada

Lacey Smithsonian, fashion editor for the DC newspaper Eye Street Observer, is watching the Christmas festivities go bad this year as two of her coworkers fight about the wisdom of wearing outrageous Christmas-themed sweaters.

Uptight editorial columnist, Cassandra Wentworth thinks that gaudy Christmas themed sweaters should be outlawed and the people wearing them be whipped. Anonymously, she even writes an editorial about it telling readers that it shows the worst of the holiday season, conspicuous consumption and wearing them celebrates the excesses of everything from ruining the environment to letting poor people starve.

Though Lacey isn't a fan of such sweaters, she doesn't care enough to join any side, but unfortunately people who read the editorial think that since it's about fashion, Lacey wrote it. That includes food editor Felicity Pickles who has made wearing those sweaters her style for years at the paper. When she learns that it was Cassandra that wrote the editorial she is angry, and then when Cassandra takes up a verbal battle with Felicity a war breaks out.

Felicity becomes too angry to even do her scrumptious holiday dessert baking for the paper and all the reporters are sorely missing her masterfully baked goodies. Feelings are becoming very sensitive at the paper.

The night of the big newsmen's Christmas bash Lacey is all dolled up and ready to party with her almost fiancÚ when she gets a strange phone call from Cassandra who yells at her for not supporting her side in the fight. Lacey doesn't let it bother her and she goes off to the party where later on her cell phone rings from Cassandra's number and a voice tells her to get to the alley of the newspaper.

When she gets there Lacey finds Cassandra on the ground. A young child, dressed in a shepherd's costume speaks out from near the trash to tell Lacey that her friend was beaten with a candy cane by some man with a Santa hat on. Before Lacey can find out more, the child runs away and she's left alone to tell the cops her rather strange story.

Little by little Lacey gets deeper into the case, only to find that she is now in danger. Once the child from the alley contacts her again, Lacey's heart goes out to the kid and there is no way she will leave the child on its own. Lacey vows to find the killer herself.

The main character, Lacey, is a bit of a fashion snob whose great outfits are very important to her job and lifestyle. She has just the right amount of pizzazz to keep the investigation of the mystery flashy and fast. The side story of the presence of homeless children and a poor church congregation in the nation's capital who are worried about their simple Christmas decorations being vandalized speaks loudly to the readers.

Author Ellen Byerrum has a wonderful talent for writing action scenes. The chase scene in this book was powerful and fast-paced and made my heartbeat rise. The tension was up at the highest level.

GRAVE APPAREL is a solid mystery with plenty of twists and turns which incorporates a solid whodunit to boot.

Reviewed by Sharon Katz, October 2007

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Contact: Yvonne Klein (ymk@reviewingtheevidence.com)

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