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a disguise to die for book coverReviewed by Kelly Ferjutz

What a clever concept! A town devoted to parties of all varieties, with a resident costume shop – Disguise DeLimit — to allow one’s inner child the opportunity to dress-up in an appropriate disguise. A Disguise to Die For is the first book in a new series by Diane Vallere, who has obviously spent an amazing amount of time dealing with fabrics of all kinds. It’s not easy being a fabric-holic, as I know only too well from my own experience. The author obviously suffers from this same condition, as her descriptions of the various textures are tactile wonders in their own right, and amazingly accurate in the process.

An added element of delightful surprise is the wardrobe of shop manager, Margo Tamblyn, who dresses from the stock of the shop. But it’s okay, because her father is the owner of record. Sadly, as this tale opens, he’s recuperating from a heart attack, grousing at being confined to a wheelchair. So Margo has left her part-time job as a magician’s assistant in Las Vegas and returned home to run the shop in her father’s absence.

A former school-mate, the very wealthy Blitz Manners, is her first customer. His birthday is approaching and he wants a party devoted to fictional detectives. Imagine all those costumes! There’s Sherlock Holmes, Miss Marple, Nancy Drew, Lord Peter Wimsey, Mike Hammer, Shaft, The Thin Man, Charlie Chan, even Encyclopedia Brown–the possibilities are endless. Blitz, of course, wants to be Sherlock, never dreaming that someone else will assume that role after Blitz doesn’t survive the party.

Margo has been raised by her dad, with the help of a friend, Ebony Welles, because her Mom had not survived the troublesome birth of her first child, Margo. Ebony runs a party supply business, so the two of them combine skills to present Blitz with the party of a lifetime!

In the belief that everything is under control, Dad and his friend Don Digby set off to investigate the possible stock of Alien-influenced costumes and props in the famous Area 51, a few hundred miles down the road. Unfortunately, nothing turns out as planned, with Blitz found on the floor in the kitchen with a knife in his chest. Ebony is hauled in for questioning, Dad has a second heart attack and is hospitalized some distance away.

In the meantime, Margo is surrounded by mostly helpful males: Kirby Grizwitz, a high school senior who works at the shop; Grady O’Toole, the best friend of Blitz, who seems to be more concerned with placing red herrings everywhere and Takenouchi Hoshiyama (call me Tak) who isn’t quite the police officer Margo thought he was.

There are any number of suspects weaving their way through the town and the shop, and Margo is fretful with everything that’s happened in such a short span of time. Thankfully, all the loose ends come together in an unexpected way, bringing a happy ending to all concerned. Except for Blitz, of course, and his killer, who shall remain un-named by me!

The author has three other series available: the Material Witness Mysteries, set in a vintage fabric shop; The Style & Error Series and Mad for Mod wrapped around mid-century interior decorating utilizing 50s kitsch. Each of these feature a very with-it, slightly snarky at times heroine, whom you can’t help but love as she gets herself into trouble after trouble. But always comes up successful and smiling!

Rating: ★★★★☆ 

First and foremost, Kelly is a reader, then a writer and editor. She adores Regency-set novels, and cozy mysteries. Every now and then, however, she finds something else to enjoy if it has a great premise with characters who belong in there, and fabulous writing! She writes under her own name, as well as her pen-name, Hetty St. James.

Review copy was provided free of any obligation by Berkley. No monetary or any other form of compensation was received.