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by Elaine Viets
Signet, November 2007
288 pages
ISBN: 045122258X

Buy in the UK | Buy in Canada

Josie Marcus, mystery shopper, is back for a pleasant third outing in ACCESSORY TO MURDER. The must-have accessory for any woman this season is the 'Halley Blue' scarf, which brings out the subtle tones of any complexion and hair color. Alas, Josie cannot buy the expensive treats, although she gets to enjoy them while she mystery shops for scarf rings at the stores. She’s even brought along her posh friend Alyce to enjoy a day at the mall as she works.

But the mall is not what it used to be. Alyce and Josie witness two kinds of theft – an expensively-dressed woman trying to return a scarf she didn’t buy, and a young boy doing a snatch-and-grab. If that wasn’t enough, at the other end of the mall is a fatal carjacking – and the victim was up-and-coming designer Halley Hardwicke, creator of the fabulous blue scarves.

Josie, who doesn’t run in such circles, isn’t impacted by the murder. She is more concerned with getting through the series of punishment jobs she’s been assigned by her vindictive boss. Alyce, who was one of Halley’s neighbors in a gated community, expects to be more upset.

But she didn’t realize how upset she was going to be until police arrest her own husband, claiming he’d had an affair with Halley and had hired the goons to kill her. Ignored by the police, who think they have an airtight case, and ostracized by her fair-weather friends in the community, Alyce turns desperately to Josie to save her husband and reputation.

Viets deserves praise for tackling social issues; there is a fair amount of discussion about racism in the differing attitudes towards the young black men accused of all sorts of crimes and the more polished illegal activities of the richer white people, such as the two types of theft Josie witnesses.

But ACCESSORY TO MURDER doesn’t delve deeply. It’s not meant to be a hard look at a social divide; it’s a cute, readable cozy. And while the book never strays far from the standard cozy conventions, it is both cute and readable. Viets can be counted on to write comfortable, upbeat plots with just enough of a hint of reality to keep them from being overly fluffy. If you’re already reading the Mystery Shopper series this is a good addition; if you’re not, this is a good start.

Reviewed by Linnea Dodson, September 2007

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Contact: Yvonne Klein (ymk@reviewingtheevidence.com)

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