Short-listed for Britain's C.W.A. 2003 Debut Dagger Award, Dumas's sparkling debut should appeal to both cozy and chick-lit fans. Thirty-four-year-old Charley Van Leeuwen, who runs her own "non-profit rep company in San Francisco," has married Jack Fairfax, a dashing former U.S. Navy meteorologist (who reminds her of "Roman Holiday Gregory Peck"), six weeks after meeting him in London. Their honeymoon comes to an abrupt halt when they discover a dead body in their bathtub at San Francisco's posh Mark Hopkins Hotel. Charley must solve the mystery (which somehow involves Jack) and direct a new play while getting kidnapped and held at gunpoint along the way. Stock characters abound: the queeny, bisexual artistic director of her theater; the no-nonsense, sometimes tactless financial manager; the uptight, shy women's studies professor. At times Charley comes across as little more than a collection of references to designer labels and expensive champagne, but her engaging voice ("It would be nice if I could say I look like Aubrey Hepburn, but I'm not delusional") will keep readers turning the pages. (Oct. 1)
Forecast: Blurbs from Donna Andrews and Penny Warner will alert their fans to this fresh voice.
Release date: 10/01/2004