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by Diana Killian
Berkley Prime Crime, April 2008
288 pages
ISBN: 0425220907

Buy in the UK | Buy in Canada

Diana Killian rises above the standard cozy cliches to create a fresh, solid, and most importantly entertaining, kickoff to her new yoga-themed series with CORPSE POSE. (Yes, that's an actual yoga position.)

There are only so many ways to build a foundation for a new series, especially for a specialty that has to be explained to the readers, which is why in the last two weeks I've read two versions of "when an offscreen relative dies, heroine becomes owner of a niche business currently run by an antagonist who resents the intrusion. Hijinks and homicide ensue." In this case, heroine A.J.'s life has already come apart at the seams. Her husband left her for another man and she is finding no fulfillment in her consulting business. Discovering that her aunt Di, who was closer to her than her own mother, is dead is a terrible blow.

Worse, Di has been murdered, and A.J. is a suspect because she has inherited almost everything $18 million, plus the proceeds from the radio show, the tie-in merchandise, the real estate, and the successful yoga studio where Di's body had been found. That last was such a shock to the woman currently filling the head teacher position that she threatens A.J. right in the lawyer's office during the reading of the will, and the accidents start happening shortly thereafter.

As seems mandatory in cozies these days, we also have the possible love interest who is the investigating officer and an embarrassing family in this case, a mother who is a former drunk, former actress, and still larger than life.

And yet CORPSE POSE makes it all work beautifully, turning these old standards into something new. Part of it is the characterization: Killian makes all of her characters three dimensional. I particularly appreciated A.J. learning to see her mother not as a drama queen, but as a woman struggling with her own sorrows and problems. I appreciated even more that although Officer Oberlin was fated to fall for A.J., he acted like a real cop throughout and not a lovesick puppy, delivering a line more cozy heroines ought to hear yelled at them: "Did you watch an episode of Scooby Doo and decide anyone could be a detective? What the hell do you think you're doing tromping around in my homicide case?"

But the biggest star is Killian's writing. Not only does she mark a distinctive shift between the frenetic life in Manhattan and the slower, calmer pace of Stillbrook, New Jersey, she peppers the book with little bits that just sparkle, in both dialog and narrative. A restaurant, the Happy Cow Steak House, is described as "a white two-story Victorian with flowering window boxes and a giant placard of a blue and white cow grinning with misplaced optimism," while A.J's mother's response to being told her daughter now owned in the neighborhood of $18 million, "That's a nice neighborhood. You'll enjoy living there."

CORPSE POSE is the best a cozy can be. Even if you're not that fond of yoga, there is plenty to keep you entertained.

Reviewed by Linnea Dodson, May 2008

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Contact: Yvonne Klein (ymk@reviewingtheevidence.com)

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