Killer Image by Wendy Tyson is the first novel in a new mystery series featuring Allison Campbell, an image consultant in Philadelphia (available October 1, 2013).
This is a brand new series with a unique protagonist. Allison Campbell is an image consultant who meets with clients to help them improve their images for various reasons. Some clients are divorcees who want a sort of self makeover post-divorce, others are people in high-profile jobs who want to work on portraying themselves in the best possible light. Alison has reworked her own image in the past (there’s backstory here) and is therefore extremely qualified to run her own business and help others.
When a pushy politician with White House ambitions and his pushover wife hire her to help their teenage, Goth-loving daughter, Allison has left her comfort zone. She has a rule that she won’t work with kids, but when she meets Maggie she feels compelled to help her, no matter how contrary—and let’s face it, troubled—the child seems to be.
Allison stepped inside. She looked around for a place to sit. A chair, painted black, sat next to a desk, painted black, but books and papers were stacked on its seat. The room looked surprisingly neat. It was smaller than Allison would have expected, but other than the stack of books, orderly. A black dresser sat against the wall between two windows. On its surface stood candles, a dozen or so bottles of various sizes, and an incense holder. A computer had been placed on the desk amid neat piles of books and papers and what looked like a strobe light, its silvery fish scales reflecting the narrow black curtains. Another stack of books tilted precariously next to the bed.
As if Allison’s first impression of Maggie’s surroundings weren’t enough to make her change her mind, Maggie’s people skills also leave quite a bit to be desired.
“Maggie, can I sit?”
Still no answer.
“No games, Maggie.”
“No games, Allison, I don’t want you here.”
Touché, sweetheart, I’m not so sure I want to be here. “I just want to talk.”
“I don’t need another shrink.”
“I’m not a shrink, Maggie.”
“Nope, I’m not a therapist.”
She sat a little straighter. “Then what are you?”
“I’m an image consultant. Your parents want to hire me to help you get yourself together.”
For a second the girl on the bed didn’t speak or move. Then she let out a laugh like a witch’s cackle, long and loud and mean.
In the middle of all this, a high-profile divorce attorney is found dead in his home. His high-payout, highly-contested divorces mean that there are any number of people who want to see him dead. However, there are no signs of forced entry, making the police think let his killer in, which narrows the field quite a bit. At the scene of the crime, the police find some disturbing evidence that lead them to believe it may have been a ritual killing. When Allison finds out that her new goth client was dating the attorney’s son, that she has no alibi for the time of the murder, and that she is into Wicca, Maggie seems to be just a little too close to the action.
Allison is dealing with her own inner demons throughout the story. She has a tenuous relationship with her family and a disturbing history with her tyrant of a father. She has an ex-husband that she still turns to on occasion for emotional support, and who may be working his way back into her life. Her ex-mother-in-law, who was also her mentor, has written her off after tragedy struck their family and Allison divorced her son. But one of the things that most troubles her is a past client whose actions she feels responsible for not preventing. This haunts her to this day, and is the reason for her rule to not work with children. It may also be the reason she decides to help Maggie, to get a second chance through another troubled young girl.
As Allison works to try and clear her new client of any criminal charges, she also works through her own personal issues. She realizes that ignoring her past isn’t getting her anywhere, and decides to start dealing with things in order to move on.
It’s a carefully-woven story that makes you think about what happens when you have regrets, and what happens when you don’t. It contains a very interesting cast of characters with a few twists that I didn’t see coming. I would consider this book a suspense novel with a little bit of thriller thrown in.
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Kerry Hammond has been an avid mystery reader ever since she discovered Nancy Drew at the age of 8. She enjoys all types of stories, from thrillers to cozies to historical mysteries.