cover image Hair Raiser

Hair Raiser

Nancy J. Cohen. Kensington Publishing Corporation, $20 (304pp) ISBN 978-1-57566-622-8

An engaging, busy plot drives saucy beautician Marla Shore's second outing (after 1999's Permed to Death), set in Palm Haven, Fla. When Marla assembles 10 local chefs to cook for a gala benefit to save a pristine beach property from commercial development, the chefs start enthusiastically but nasty accidents soon cause them, one by one, to withdraw. Sabotage isn't out of the question, since the board members of Ocean Guard, the preservation group sponsoring the benefit, are all at each other's throats. When someone bludgeons the board's lawyer to death with a Samoan knife belonging to a banker on the board, Marla goes to the Bahamas to look for answers, taking malicious pranks and even murder attempts in stride with all the panache of a grown-up Nancy Drew. At times Cohen overwrites, especially when describing her characters' reactions (""Marla gazed into Babs's frantic hazel eyes and her mouth curved upward""; ""His face wore its usual supercilious grin as he peered at her, hazel eyes raking her attire""), but there's no reason why a good editor can't curb such excesses in future Bad Hair Day episodes. Marla's romance with police detective Dalton Vail continues to thrive, and should be a major focus for fans in the next installment. A bold pink jacket perfectly complements the text. Agent, Linda Hyatt. (Dec. 5)