Wednesday, October 10, 2018

Death of a Russian Doll (A Vintage Toy Shop Mystery Book 3)

Author:  Barbara Early
Genre:  Mystery

Hardcover; Digital Book
ISBN #:  9781683317029
Crooked Lane Books
295 Pages
$17.70; $9.99 Amazon
October 9, 2018


Who knew?  Liz McCall is not thrilled when her boyfriend Police Chief Ken Young introduces her to his estranged wife Marya.  The model-quality Russian immigrant, back in East Aurora to rekindle their romance, will be working as a hairstylist at the barber shop next door to Well Played, the toyshop Liz manages for her dad.  When Marya offers to help with the shop's doll rehab project, Liz can't help but offer up only a weak smile, but her secret hesitations are for naught as Marya's body is discovered in the barber shop with a hair dryer cord wrapped around her neck.

Liz's dad, retired from the police force, is asked to investigate since Ken is the prime suspect.  The whole town is abuzz with the scandal and Liz has a few questions of her own, wanting nothing more than to forget the loud argument she overheard between Marya and Ken the night before.  There could have been other motives...Was Marya going to cut into a competing hairstylist business?  Who is the bumbling private investigator hanging around and why won't he explain himself?

All eyes are on Liz, including those of an odd matryoshka doll in the shop which seems to move of its own accord...


Liz McCall works in her father's toy shop and lives above it with her dad.  She has a pretty decent life, and seems to be content, but she's had a rough love life.  She broke up with her first love, Jack Wallace, in order to be with Police Chief Ken Young.  However, just as Liz decided she made the right decision, Ken dropped a bomb...

It seems he had a wife he never told her about named Marya, and Liz felt betrayed.  Needless to say, after that, she didn't want much to do with either one of them.  But Liz and her sister-in-law Cathy are rehabbing dolls for needy children, and Liz, who hates dolls, doesn't want much to do with them.  Cathy has help with the clothes and cleaning, but she doesn't know about doll hair - although she knows someone who does.  That someone is Marya, so she asks her to help.  To Liz's dismay, Marya shows up at the shop ready to start work, but it's apparent she doesn't like Liz.

When Marya is found murdered and Ken is the main suspect, he's temporarily removed from his job while her father Hank, former police chief, is asked to fill in until the case is solved.  While she's worried for her dad, Liz decides if she can do a little digging on her own she'll be able to help.  But will it be helping her dad or allow a murderer to kill again?...

I've read the first two books in the series, so if anyone hasn't read them, I'll try not to say too much rather than ruin it for anyone.

Then there's Liz herself, who probably isn't mature enough to handle a relationship of any kind.  She still lives with her dad (which pretty much kills the love life of any adult woman) and allows her father to cut her hair. (Really?)  She wears cartoon-themed footed pajamas.  (Honestly?)  She allows her sister-in-law to fix her makeup and hair when she's going out, and even choose her clothes for her.  This is an adult woman, not a five-year-old child.  Yet it seems she's never gotten out of the childhood stage at all.  I was choosing my own clothes (and can dress quite nicely for events) and wearing makeup when I was a teenager.  Liz still isn't capable of these things, and we're supposed to believe that she's even capable of handling a relationship?

Unfortunately, because of the things I mentioned above, it detracted from the mystery.  Every time it progressed, Liz did (or wore) something else that just seemed unreal.  In real life, if a bunch of people saw her in those pajamas, they wouldn't think it was cute; they'd wonder what was wrong with her.

We were also given no clues at all to the killer until the very end.  We weren't given a chance to figure it out for ourselves - which is why we read mysteries.  Most of the book was centered on Liz and her love life; less on the mystery.  Other than that, it was a decent cozy and can be read in one evening.

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