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DATING DEAD MEN
By Harley Jane Kozak
Broadway, March, 2005
Trade paperback format ($12.95)
Reviewed by Cherie Jung
Wollie Shelley is a freelance greeting card artist and operates a small greeting card shop located in a rather seedy section of town. She is trying to upgrade her shop but the franchise owner hasn't made a final decision on her worthiness in the card business. She barely passes one inspection (with more to come) when Mr. Bundt, the field representative of the Welcome! Greeting Corporation enters her store and discovers she is playing a Frank Sinatra recording, has a "List" of qualities she's looking for in her next "dating project" taped to the front counter, and suddenly receives an hysterical call on her telephone answering machine from her brother, who is a patient in the state mental hospital, claiming there's been a murder. Amazingly, Mr. Bundt missed the full impact of Fredreeq, Wollie's store employee, who was wearing Zebra-print stockings that stretched "from the hem of a very short, very tight skirt into a pair of velvet stiletto heels" when she arrived. He also didn't notice the cigarette burn on the floor in "Aisle 3, Condolences/Get Well Soon" section, but it was a close call.
Meanwhile, Wollie is dating 40 men in 60 days. No, she's not quite that desperate to find true love. It's part of a research project for a radio celebrity psychotherapist and Wollie's being paid for her participation. Life keeps her scrambling. She still has to deal with her schizophrenic brother, be on guard for corporate spies, and sort out a few other problems that crop up.
This is the debut novel that won numerous awards for author Harley Jane Kozak, including the Agatha, Anthony, and Macavity awards for Best First Mystery Novel and the Romantic Times award for Best Humorous Mystery.
The author has combined humor, romance, suspense, and a fast-paced story into a madcap adventure that will delight most readers, even those who think they don't like romance or humor in their mysteries. The characters are unique and quirky, but lovable. The writing style is breezy. Several reviewers have likened Wollie to Bridet Jones -- and I could see Renee Zeleweger as a charming, if shorter than written, Wollie. The author's writing has been compared to Janet Evanovich and Gillian Roberts. Fair enough, I suppose, but I think after another Wollie Shelley book or two, the comparisons will be that so-and-so writes like Harley Jane Kozak.
I think fans of Lori Avocato might enjoy this series, as well.
If you like a spunky heroine, you really should give this series a try. Both books are available in trade paperback format.
My only quibble is not with the author or her books, but in the way they are being marketed, as "chic-lit." Of all the people I've spoken to about these two books, and those of other authors being marketed in the same manner, both casual readers and mystery bookstore owners have complained that they hate the "chic-lit" tag. Bookstore owners have mentioned that they have a hard time getting customers to even try the books. (One bookstore owner, friend, offers a money-back guarantee. If you buy the books, and read them, but don't like them, you get your money back.) Reviewers here at omdb! have been reluctant to try "chic-lit" tagged books, and as I mentioned, quite a few casual readers have shied away from the books as well. I hope this marketing tool doesn't backfire on the publishers.
This is the first book in the Wollie Shelley series. Would you like to read a review of the second book in the series? If so, please click on the title below to read the review.
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