I found Permed to Death at the library, and immediately picked it up. How could anyone resist such a title?
This is, according the author's bio, the first published volume of a series starring Marla Shore, a South Florida hairstylist living happily alone (for the most part) despite the loud wishes of her mother and would-be suitors that Marla return to the dating scene. In this debut, Marla is seeing to regular customer/nag Bertha Kravitz who dies mid-perm from poisoning. Turns out Marla keeps a special stash of coffee creamer for Mrs. Kravitz in the salon and it is discovered to be tainted; clearly somebody wanted to cream more than coffee with it.
Thus, Marla instigates her own investigation to clear her name - seeing as how Detective Vail is ready to arrest her based on opportunity and lack of witnesses, she did buy the creamer, you know - while also seeking to destroy some evidence that would definitely give Marla a motive as well. Marla hints often at this blackmail package Mrs. Kravitz had held over her in exchange for free ‘dos, and I long figured it out before the nature of the evidence was revealed. Getting said material back from Bertha's whiny, conceited, and/or sleazy relatives and associates proves to be a pain.
As far as the mystery goes, Permed to Death has its fun moments, particularly when Marla interacts with various supporting characters, yet reads a bit long. Though I could not immediately pick up on the murderer as other readers of this novel claim to have done, I got the feeling Marla didn't exactly make any shortcuts in her sleuthing. Her relationship with the cynical Detective Vail, in particular, comes off as awkward - it appears as if Marla's primping for this man's visits and cursing him in the same breath. I'm reading this book and wondering to myself if Cohen was trying to introduce some *** tension or to get us to believe that Marla and Vail would eventually become a couple. I didn't see some of the things Vail said and did in this book as typical of a true homicide detective.
Kathryn Lively is the publisher of Phaze, romance novels in eBook and paperback. She offers book promotion advice for authors.