Monday, September 12, 2016

Silk Stalkings (A Material Witness Mystery)

Author:  Diane Vallere
Genre:  Mystery

Paperback; Ebook
ISBN# 9780425270592
Berkley Publishing
304 Pages
$7.99 Amazon
August 2, 2016

Five Stars

The time has come for San Ladron, California's annual Miss Tangorli beauty pageant, and Poly has agreed to use Material Girl's inventory of shimmery silks to create embellished gowns fit for a crown.  But when millionaire Harvey Halliwell - the man who revived the city's citrus trade with his imported tangorli tree - is found dead days before the pageant contestants are announced, something sour takes over the town.

To make matters worse, her friend, mechanic Charlie Brooks, is soon caught up in the crime, having been seen in the company of the case's prime suspect.  Now Poly's on a mission to squeeze out the truth.  But as she searches for a pattern, the killer seems intent on cutting up the evidence...


Polyester Monroe lives in San Ladron, California and owns a fabric shop, Material Girl, that she inherited from her late aunt and uncle.  One evening while attending a local event, she is spending some time with her could-be-boyfriend, Vaughn McMichael, in the gardens of Waverly House, an historic inn owned by his mother, when she sees two men arguing across the way from them, one of them clad entirely in orange, right down to his hair.  Vaughn identifies him as Harvey Halliwell, the man behind the pageant and creator of the Tangorli, a cross between a tangerine, orange and lime.  When she sees Harvey fall down, the other hurries away.  She rushes over, sending Vaughn to call for help.  When he leaves, Harvey recovers, insists he's fine and departs before Vaughn returns.

The next day she is approached in her shop by Nolene Kelly, Harvey's employee and organizer of the beauty pageant.  She asks Poly to help out, guaranteeing a hefty fee.  It seems Nolene wants all the young ladies who have entered to have the same chance of winning, so she's asked Poly to help:  She wants her to sell each of them ten yards of silk, allow them to design their own gown, and Poly will have seamstresses sew the creations.  Not willing to turn down a lucrative assignment, she agrees.

But later that day when she is heading across the gardens, she finds Harvey's body - he's been stabbed with an orange-handed knife.    But who killed him?  When Poly starts talking to people, and they to her, she finds that there is no lack of suspects; in fact, the more information she gains, the more she discovers that there were any number of people who wouldn't be upset to see Harvey dead and gone.  But which one is the killer?

To add to the confusion, it seems the man who was arguing with Harvey the night before he died is the man who gave her friend Charlie a home for several years and treated her like his own daughter.  While his actions are suspicious, Charlie is adamant that he's no killer, and Poly needs to find out if Charlie's loyalties are misplaced or someone else would be happy to see him take the fall.

Silk Stalkings is delightful to read.  There is intrigue aplenty, and red herrings around every corner.  Just when you think one person might be the guilty party, someone else comes along.  Although there are plenty of people who could have wanted Harvey dead, there is only one killer (sorry, folks, this isn't Murder on the Orient Express) and Poly is having a difficult time figuring out who that is.

To add to it all, she's trying to figure out her relationship with Vaughn.  While the romance, as it were, is secondary to the murder (as it should be) it's still quite interesting to see how he reacts to certain situations she puts him in, and enjoyable enough to see how he handles it all.  I look forward to seeing more on this development in later books.

The plot is tangled in tightly with secrets being revealed along the way, and any one of them could have gotten Harvey killed.  But deciphering the truth isn't as easy as all that for Poly, and she finds that sometimes it's not the secrets that can get you killed, but the truths that were hiding in plain sight all along.

When we come to the end and the murderer is revealed, it's both satisfying and believable.  The characters are given depth and are convincing.  Ms. Vallere has given us a plot that entails a highly wrought elaborate plan that is inviting and also a pleasure to unravel.  This is the third book in the series, but enough information is given that it can be read as a stand alone.  Highly recommended.

More on Diane Vallere's books:                                                                       

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