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By Annette Blair

Berkley Prime Crime, 2009 ($7.99)
ISBN-10: 0425229114
ISBN-13: 978-0-425-22911-8

Reviewed by Shirley Wetzel

"Clothes whisperer" Madeira Cutler leaves her high-pressure, high-paying job in the New York fashion industry to start her own vintage clothing store in her hometown, Mystick Falls, near the historic seaport town of Mystic, Connecticut. It bothers her not a bit that the building was once the town morgue, and later a funeral home. Maddie is comfortable with ghosts; in fact, one of her closest friends is a permanent resident of the building, the gallant and sexy Dante Underhill. The local law enforcement officer, Detective Sgt. Lytton Werner, is most decidedly not one of her best friends because of an incident that happened when they were in third grade, and he's not too happy about all the apparently false alarms at her building in the weeks before she arrives in town for good. When she startles an intruder her first night there, she doesn't bother to call him, even when she spots a suspicious character staring at her from across the street. She does call her beau, FBI agent Nick Jaconetti, and the creep takes off. Her friendly ghost tells her somebody has been trying very hard to break into her storage room, but it is so tightly sealed even she doesn't know what's in it.

Maddie isn't sure how much psychic power she has, but in addition to seeing ghosts she has an ability at times to get readings off items of used clothing. Usually the readings are strong and distressing emotions of the last person to wear the article. When friends and townspeople drop off boxes of their castoffs, she finds most of them to be better candidates for Goodwill or the rag bag, but she is stunned to find an entire wardrobe of expensive couture clothing. She has no idea where they came from, but she's happy to have them -- until she touches an especially fine cape and gets a vision that disturbs her so much she's afraid to handle any of the other garments. The woman who owned them might be wealthy, but she is not happy. As events unfold and Maddie has more visions of the mystery woman, she's not sure the lady is even alive. Episodes of vandalism, arson, and murder cause Maddie to wonder if leaving the big city was such a good idea. When she uncovers damning evidence about the involvement of some of the locals in crimes old and new, she starts to wonder not only if her business will survive, but if she herself will make it.

This book, the second in the Vintage Magic mystery, is a fun read. I don't know much about couture clothing, but I enjoyed learning a little about it. There is a fine cast of supporting characters, including her best friend Eve, Detective Weiner -- oops, Werner, her father and her Aunt Fiona, who has some talent in the paranormal field too, and the lovely and ancient dowager, Dolly, who was Dante's one true love. There is a charming scene involving those two that just might bring a tear to your eye.

I plan to read the first book, A VEILED DECEPTION, and look forward to the next installment.

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