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CAPPED OFF: A Brenda Midnight mystery.
By Barbara Jaye Wilson

Twilight, August 1999, paperback, 256 pages, $5.99 (US)

Reviewed by Shirley Wetzel

Brenda Midnight, milliner to the hip and cool denizens of Greenwich Village, swallows her pride and takes her wares to the big ugly department store which has invaded her beloved turf. The store buyer, however, can't look at her wares because she's dead.

Belinda's old cop buddies Turner and McKinley happen to show up at the scene of the crime and find a gun in her hatbox, which may or may not be the murder weapon. Brenda has no intentions of getting involved this time, but when suspicion is cast on her, and she finds incriminating evidence against an old friend, she has to try to prove her own innocence, and, if possible, that of her friend.

Her cop friends ask her to teach policewoman Nicole Gundermutter, a pony-tailed motorcycle mama, about the hat business so she can go undercover at the store. Brenda tries a little undercover work of her own, with mixed results.

There are some convoluted subplots as well. Her neighbor Elizabeth has stopped baking her peculiar cookies and has taken to roaming the streets at odd hours. Television star Johnny Verlane, her sometime lover, seeks Brenda's help on his "workout as you cook" book project. The millinery community has gone computerized, but when Brenda seeks the help of computer geek Chuck, she finds him in a deep funk. He's heard a rumor about his secret love, Elizabeth, that threatens to shatter his world.

There is a lot for Brenda to sort out, while still trying to sell hats in the meantime.

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