Friday, September 23, 2016

Lethal Lifestyles (A Headlines in High Heels Mystery #6)

Author:  LynDee Walker
Genre:  Mystery

Hardcover; Paperback; Ebook
ISBN #:  9781635110685; 9781635110654
Henery Press
262 Pages
$31.95; $15.95; $6.99 Amazon
September 27, 2016

Five Stars

Wedding bells are ringing at the Richmond Telegraph, and maid of honor Nichelle Clarke is determined to give her friends the perfect fairytale beginning to their happily ever after.  So when a corpse crashes rehearsal weekend, Nichelle ditches her wedding coordinator shoes for her crime reporter ones, and a little poking around turns up a big problem:  the victim and the groom have a history, and it's not a pretty one.  Evidence against groom Grant Parker piles up, leaving Nichelle wishing a hostile bridesmaid was still her biggest worry as she tries to fend off Richmond's favorite TV reporter - and her own scheming publisher.  At odds with the cops, her beloved editor, and the ticking clock, Nichelle races to uncover the truth and save the day before this perfect wedding turns into a funeral.


Nichelle Clarke is a Reporter Extraordinaire for the Richmond Telegraph; but right now she has her hands full planning the wedding of her friends and co-workers, Melanie and (Grant) Parker.  She's turned into a Wedding Planner Extraordinaire, determined to give them a memorable fairy tale wedding of all weddings.  The venue is lovely, a vineyard setting courtesy of the owner, Dale Sammons, who is a fan of Parker's, once a state baseball star before an injury cut his career short.

They are at the winery for a rehearsal, and when Nichelle steps away from the festivities for a moment, she overhears a conversation with disturbing news:  A body has been found in a wine barrel - and that doesn't bode well for anyone.  She volunteers to convince the party to temporarily vacate the premises (they are all staying in cabins onsite for a few days) and have dinner somewhere else so that the concerned vineyard employees can call the police and hopefully get the matter resolved before they return.  After all, it doesn't have anything to do with any of them, right?

Wrong - when the dead man is none other than Mitch Burke, a longtime rival of Parker's and someone who also hated him intensely - to the point of sending threatening emails - and it puts Parker right in the middle of the investigation as a possible suspect.

Since it soon becomes apparent that all clues lead back to Parker, Nichelle is determined to prove him innocent, even if no one but herself and Melanie thinks he is.  But it's going to be trickier than she thought.  When she starts digging, she finds out that Burke was into some illegal goings-on, and other people are involved as well, including some who want to see Parker charged with murder.  Even the love of her life, Joey D'Amore, who has shady connections himself, is warning her away, but Nichelle is willing to risk everything - including her job and her life - to catch a killer...

This, my friends, is the best book in the series to date.  While it begins harmless enough with the wedding of two of her best friends, it soon evolves into something much darker and convoluted in no time at all.  There is no dearth of suspects, even when it becomes obvious that Parker may have had the best motive of anyone - wanting to protect Melanie.  Still refusing to believe him capable of murder, she uses her journalist's nose and gut feelings to ferret out information that proves it is more than just revenge at the core of Burke's death.

To add to it all, she discovers that something is afoot at the vineyard that may or may not be connected to Burke's death, but is just as sinister in every sense of the word; leaving her feeling overwhelmed and on the verge of a nervous breakdown in more ways than one.  But with all else that is going on, Nichelle's personal life is taking a turn as well.  A misunderstanding leads to a change in her relationship with Joey, one that changes both their lives forever.

I can't describe how much I enjoy this series.  Ms. Walker has a way of not only bringing characters to life on the page, she actually gives them life on the page; you feel a part of everything that is occurring; and this is a very good thing.  They are luminous and fully dimensional; vivid and convincing.  It is a joy to read each book and watch their personalities evolve even as we try, along with Nichelle, to find a killer in their midst.

When the ending comes and all the secrets are revealed, it is both warped yet still satisfying; what at first appears to be merely twisted winds up being misbegotten in the extreme.  It is a delightfully twisted plot that gives us plenty of red herrings without allowing us to discover the killer early on, a true standard of a successful tale.  Kudos to Ms. Walker, and I look forward to the next book in the series.  Highly recommended.

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