Dyed and Gone by Beth Yarnall is the mystery debut of Azalea March, California hairstylist and salon owner, who'll investigate the death of a hair world celebrity at a Las Vegas convention to clear her best friend's name (available March 25, 2014).
Normally the first book in a cozy series starts off in the main character’s hometown, and you slowly get introduced to supporting characters and the locale. Then, some local person gets bumped off and everyone is a suspect. Dyed and Gone decided to go a different route and ramp it up a notch, or twenty, and it really works.
Right from the start, Azalea and her two best friends (business partner Vivian and stylist Juan Carlos) are in Las Vegas, attending the North American Salon Trade Expo, which Juan Carlos calls “NAST-E.” Prior to the conference, Azalea, dealing badly with her love life, has hit rock bottom:
I’d been dangling at the end of a string of very poor romantic choices and losing my grip fast when Vivian had burst into my apartment the day before yesterday. She’d yanked the TV cable right out of the wall, ending my three-day, tear-inducing Hallmark channel marathon.
“Please tell me you haven’t bid on any more of those horrible flower dresses,” she’d said, hands on hips. This wasn’t the first time she’d rescued me from floral disaster.
My guilty gaze flew to the laptop on the coffee table in front of me propped up by a stack of bridal magazines, my finger hovering over the return key. “Ah, no?” Not yet, anyway.
“Azalea!” She rushed over to where I sat on the couch and looked at the screen. “Oh, for God’s sake. That’s the ugliest one yet.” She closed the computer, sat down next to me, and pulled my Buy Now hand into hers. “You can’t bury your feelings in sappy movies and vintage Laura Ashley dresses. You’re getting out of here. Now. Pack a bag.”
How did she always seem to know when I was at my lowest? This particular low had been courtesy of a too-hot-to-be-legal cop who’d done the old I’ll-call-you thing and then didn’t. The jerk.
Juan Carlos had skidded to a stop in the entryway. He’d leaned on the doorjamb, one hand over his heart, huffing and puffing as though he’d run a marathon instead of up my three front steps. “Please tell me we got here in time to stop Laura Ingalls Wilder from adding to her Little House on the Depressed Prairie collection.”
Of course, this is a murder mystery, so not all of the Las Vegas fun is hair extensions and dye jobs.
Dhane, the sexy spokesperson of a Scandinavian hair product company, Hjálmar, is the main attraction at the convention. Azalea quickly finds out that Vivian and Dhane know each other, but Vivian is being very tight-lipped about how and when they met, and Azalea even catches her in several lies.
Dhane is found murdered, and soon after, Vivian confesses to the crime and is arrested. Azalea, with the help of Juan Carlos, jumps in to try and prove Vivian’s innocence. Kennedy, the officer in charge, known behind his back as King Kennedy, is not very helpful. He has no reason to believe Vivian is innocent,especially since she confessed. To make things even more interesting, Azalea’s recent love interest, a cop and the person who started her earlier downward spiral and floral shopping spree, even shows up to help investigate.
There is no shortage of suspects at the hair convention, and quite a few people who benefit from Dhane’s death. There is also no shortage of humor in Yarnall’s story. The characters she has created really pop and the dialogue made me laugh out loud on many occasions. The witty banter between the
characters is really well written and funny. One of the kookiest suspects is Dhane’s sister, Trinity, who carries around and talks through a pet skunk named Curio. When Azalea goes to speak to Trinity about Dhane, she gets a laundry list of rules that she needs to follow:
“First the rules.” He signaled for me to take a seat. When we were settled he continued,
“Talk directly to Trinity, not to Curio. He merely serves as an interpreter, if you will.”
“Interpreter. Like for a foreign person?”
“Okay.” I’d never been good at rules and hoped there weren’t very many more.
“Don’t look Trinity in the eye. Don’t say the words ‘three,’ ‘fortune,’ or ‘skunk.’ She especially hates the word ‘skunk.’”
“Skunk. Got it.”
“You can’t chew gum, but breath mints are permissible. You can cross your right leg over your left, but not your left leg over your right.”
“You’re making this up.”
He tried to pull a brow up into his bangs but his Botox-frozen face wouldn’t oblige him.
“Do you want to speak with her or not?”
“Yes. Sorry. Carry on. Right leg yes, left leg no. Got it.”
“You’re not an Aquarius, are you?”
The author couldn’t have picked a better place to start the series. Las Vegas provides just enough of a backdrop for the strange events that go on. It almost wouldn’t have been as believable anywhere else. But then, you think, they’re in Vegas? Well, yeah—it could happen. It’s a strong start for a new series. It makes me look forward to finally meeting the characters in their hometown and seeing some local person get bumped off. But I guess that will have to wait until book two.
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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.