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By Toni Kelner

Berkley Prime Crime, 2009 ($6.99)
ISBN-10: 0425228126
ISBN-13: 978-0-425-228128

Reviewed by Shirley Wetzel

Tilda Harper is a free-lance writer with office space in the magazine Entertain Me! She writes an article on a short-lived 1970's sitcom, after the apparently accidental death of two of the stars, and her editor decides to title it "The Curse of the Kissing Cousins." When a third star dies, with no question it is murder, interest in "The Curse of the Kissing Cousins" skyrockets.

Tilda doesn't let it be known, but she was a fan of the show, and wanted to be just like her favorite character, Mercy, the Goth girl. She's interviewed several of the people involved with the show, but not Mercy. She can't track her down, and none of her former colleagues or friends can either. The girl got a role in a major film after the sitcom ended, and everyone expected her to become a major star. After a couple of weeks on the set, she walked away from the set and disappeared.

Tilda has come to know some of the sitcom fans through an internet website. Vincent, the most ardent fanboy, tells Tilda that someone is methodically murdering the stars, and Mercy is next. He begs Tilda to find her and warn her, but that's easier said than done. She really doesn't believe Vincent is right about the serial Kissing Cousin murderer until another former star almost bites the dust. Was Mercy murdered long ago, or could it be that she is the killer? No, Tilda can't accept that, even thought she realizes the Mercy she idolized was just a woman playing a role, a woman she knows nothing about.

Kelner's writing makes the reader feel like he's getting a backstage look at the workings of an entertainment magazine, and the life of a journalist specializing in the currently or used-to-be famous in TV land, as well as the lives of their fans, who range from the mildly interested, like Tilda, to the seriously obsessed. The plot is crisp, with plenty of twists and red herrings, and the ending is very satisfying.

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