Mystery Books for Sale

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by Deb Baker
Berkley, March 2008
275 pages
ISBN: 0425220516

Buy in the UK | Buy in Canada

Doll restoration artist Gretchen Birch is on her way to a party at Mini Maize, a dollhouse shop, when she gets waylaid by a parade in Scottsdale, Arizona. If she hadn’t been trapped by cowboys on horseback and clowns pushing wheelbarrows, she might have arrived at the shop in time to save the life of Charlie Maize. As it is, poor Charlie is deader than a doornail when Gretchen and several other partygoers enter the store.

Like her recently departed sister, Charlie seems to have died under suspicious circumstances that require a full police investigation. Who better to assist Scottsdale’s finest than Gretchen, a woman who knows everything about dollhouses and the miniature people who inhabit them? And who better to assist Gretchen than her mother Caroline, her best friend April, and her nosy Aunt Nina?

Caroline is an expert on all things pertaining to dolls and has even written a book on the subject. As for April, she’s a doll appraiser who collects miniatures, including tiny bisque dolls called 'penny' dolls. Aunt Nina is a dog trainer, but loves being part of the doll scene shared by her sister and niece.

The three of them join Gretchen in cleaning up the mess left when Charlie collapsed in the store, pulling down several room boxes from their display stands and scattering tiny furnishings on the floor. Putting the room boxes back together again seems one way to pay tribute to their dead friend. Another way is to snoop around as best they can to discover who killed Charlie and why.

Gretchen’s almost-divorced boyfriend is a cop with the Phoenix police. Matt takes an interest in the Scottsdale case when he’s assigned to reopen the investigation into Charlie’s sister’s death, a supposed accident until now. Gretchen is happy to see Matt, but worries that his estranged wife will stalk her again as she did in the past. Gretchen stays clear of Matt when she can, but the two are drawn ever closer together as the suspects begin to multiply in Charlie’s murder.

Then one of Gretchen’s helpers goes missing, and no one knows if she’s simply following up on a clue or has fallen victim to Charlie’s killer. The tension ratchets up a notch as Gretchen and the rest of her motley crew put their heads together to save one of their own.

This third book in Deb Baker’s doll series features a nice assortment of characters, including a couple of dogs that beg for attention with their antics. The leisurely pace of the story and the romantic angle make this a pleasurable read for cozy fans. And while it’s fairly easy to guess whodunit and why, doll lovers everywhere will appreciate the doll collecting trivia sprinkled liberally through the book.

Reviewed by Mary V. Welk, March 2008

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