Welcome to Cozy Wednesday!!
Diane Vallere is my Special Guest today and she has a treat for us. When she offered me this guest post I was absolutely thrilled because I had always wished an author would write a guest post like this.
Back in September of 2013, I had the fortunate opportunity to submit a proposal for a possible new cozy mystery series that featured a costume shop owner. Originally I was going to base the protagonist on a character in a shot story that I’d written, but it became too hard for me to stay true to the character traits that I’d established in that story while also building this new world. I changed her name from Mia Thomas to Margo Tamblyn (change is reflected below to keep things from being confusing), but otherwise, this is the series concept and individual book ideas that I submitted to Berkley Prime Crime. MYSTERY PARTY ended up being the basis for A DISGUISE TO DIE FOR, the first in the Costume Shop Mystery Series, that came out Feb 2!
Proper, Nevada. [fictional town] Census-designed town in southern Nevada near California state lines. Population has grown several hundred to several thousand in a decade. Long-time residents have fought the influx of transplants. Close proximity to early settlers of Nevada, lots of ghost stories and rumors of treasures in the caves on the outskirts of town. Residents consist of retired casino employees, 4th generation wealth from gold rush, and new families who have relocated here because of new schools and low cost of living.
The town holds an annual sagebrush festival in the summer, a Beaux Arts ball in the winter, and a mineral-themed festival in the summer. Proper, Nevada has a tight community that immediately takes notice of newcomers. The town prides itself on hosting a creative social calendar of parties and events, keeping the residents in a constant state of one-upmanship when it comes to planning birthdays, engagements, retirement parties, and anything else they can think of.
SHOP NAME: Disguise DeLimit
Margo Tamblyn: owner of costume shop. Margo’s mom died during childbirth, so she was raised by her father. The owner of a costume shop, he fumbled through raising a girl by relying on costumes for Margo’s school clothes, thus instilling in her a lifelong love of playing dress up. Now an adult, Margo dresses in “themes,” incorporating props and toys as accessories to her outfits. When her father has a heart attack and is forced to retire, Margo moves to Proper to care for him and take over the costume shop.
Margo has a small gray cat that she rescued. His name is Jaws 2 (named after her Betta fish Jaws, who suffered an unfortunate fate.)
Margo suffers from feelings of inadequacy, which she is dealing with in therapy. Her psychiatrist has been encouraging her to take more risks and open up to people, metaphorically “dropping the mask” that she hides behind. [this will become a source of conflict for Margo]
Other regular characters:
Ebony Welles [friend/surrogate mother]: Owner of a local party planning business, thirty years older than Margo. She acted as a surrogate mother to Margo in her childhood and remains the most influential woman in Margo’s life. Ebony is a black woman who copies different cinematic icons as her “look” to match the parties that she is planning, but mostly dresses in a 70’s style. At different times she could be Foxy Brown, Grace Jones, Diana Ross, Tina Turner, Dorothy Dandridge.
Other regular characters will include Tak Hoshiyama, local cop/love interest, son of Japanese and American parents, and Margo’s dad, who is recovering from a heart attack.
The beginning of spring marks the beginning of outdoor birthday party season in Proper. When spoiled Blitz Manners hires Margo’s friend to plan a mystery-themed birthday party, Margo is brought on board to provide the perfect costume for the birthday boy. Even though Blitz’s Sherlock Holmes costume is spot-on, he’s openly disappointed that she went classic Holmes instead of pop-culture Holmes. He cancels his order, leaving Margo unpaid for her work. When an invitee offers to buy the costume, Margo considers it a stroke of luck, until he is found dead at the party. Did Blitz have second thoughts about the costume, or did someone kill the wrong Sherlock? All detectives on deck for this one!
The beginning of summer brings the annual sagebrush festival. Craft vendors, artists, and musicians celebrate Nevada’s state flower with booths where they showcase their talents, live performances by local actors, and a parade. Margo has been hired to outfit the Sagebrush Sallies, a group of retired go-go dancers who perform a modified version of their sixties dances at the festival. But when Margo discovers a pair of abandoned white boots by the Sallies’ dressing quarters days before the festival, she suspects the worst. She follows the heel marks in the dirt and finds the body of one of the dancers. With no suspects and no leads, Margo takes a place in the kick line, hoping to expose the murderer.
TEDDY BEAR TRAGEDY
When a wealthy resident hires Carolyn to plan a birthday party for her daughter’s teddy bear, she uses the book Bear Party as her jumping off point. Suddenly, Margo is booked creating costumes for the plush animals of Proper! But when priceless jewelry goes missing at the party, it seems the only suspects are made of fiberfill—until one of the maids is found murdered in the kitchen. The local police, under pressure to find the valuables, threaten to confiscate all of the children’s teddy bears in a search and seizure. Margo and Carolyn are on a race to find the missing jewels and unmask a murderer before the most innocent of residents are literally turned inside out.
When a sci-fi convention comes to Proper, the whole population gears up to get their Trek on. Margo is hired to design costumes for an alien/intergalactic army opening number performed by Proper’s city council. But when one alien is found dead before the opening act, and the mayor’s toy gun is found to be a carefully disguised pistol with the same bullets that shot the alien/actor, Margo has to find out who substituted her costume props for deadly weapons and why.
BEAUX ARTS BUST
The annual Beaux Arts Ball is upon the city of Proper. The theme is Garden of Earthly Delights, and the city’s wealthiest residents intend to pull out all the stops when it comes to their costumes. Local resident Amelia Hartford, director of the museum where the party will be held, consults with Margo for an elaborate Lady Godiva-type costume guaranteed to put her in the spotlight. But when Amelia is found dead in the Hieronymus Bosch wing of the museum and the police find an empty hidden pocket in the lining of her costume, everyone is a suspect. Was it a board member? An ex-husband? Or a crazy art lover who blurred the lines between art and reality? Margo can’t help wonder if what Amelia had hidden in that pocket had gotten her killed.
When local homicide detective Tak Noh convinces his precinct to host a Guys and Dolls party as a fundraiser, Margo finds herself knee-deep in pinstripe and fedoras. Her friend the party planner arranges for casino-type rentals in a local party hall and invites the town’s population to join in for a night of fun that will help the boys in blue. When a real mobster on the run hears about the event, he knows it’s the perfect place to hide. He pretends to be part of the force, getting Margo to make him a costume too, but when the event is raided by the very men he’s hiding from, can he continue to lay low, or does he come out of hiding to get a piece of the action.
I don’t know about you but I love seeing the way the books we love get started. We all hear the term “pitched” thrown around but to see the pitch is very exciting for me. We also get a preview of stories coming in out future. Thank you so much Diane!!
A Disguise to Die For:
A Costume Shop Mystery
Setting – Nevada
A Berkley Prime Crime Mystery (February 2, 2016)
An Imprint of Penguin Random House, LLLC
Mass Market Paperback: 304 pages
E-Book ASIN: B00X5936W2
Someone is dressed to kill in the debut Costume Shop Mystery from the national bestselling author of the Material Witness mysteries.
No sooner does former magician’s assistant Margo Tamblyn return home to Proper City, Nevada, to run Disguise DeLimit, her family’s costume shop, than she gets her first big order. Wealthy nuisance Blitz Manners needs forty costumes for a detective-themed birthday bash. As for Blitz himself, his Sherlock Holmes is to die for—literally—when, in the middle of the festivities, Margo’s friend and party planner Ebony Welles is caught brandishing a carving knife over a very dead Blitz.
For Margo, clearing Ebony’s name is anything but elementary, especially after Ebony flees town. Now Margo is left to play real-life detective in a town full of masked motives, cloaked secrets, and veiled vendettas. But as she soon learns, even a killer disguise can’t hide a murderer in plain sight for long.
INCLUDES RECIPES AND COSTUME IDEAS!
Disguise is the limit!! This is a soaring debut!
Margo Tamblyn had a very interesting upbringing. She lost her mother at birth and grew up with her father running their costume shop, Disguise DeLimit. From an early age and still today Margo wears costumes or parts of costumes as her everyday attire. She marches to her own drummer and is stronger than she knows. She has been working in Las Vegas as a magician’s assistant, but after her father suffers a heart attack she quickly finds a replacement and comes home. She wants to look after her father but knows she has to keep the store open. She is unsure about her father’s finances but is sure his recent trip to the hospital left him with some bills to pay. When Blitz Manners enters the store demanding she pull together 40 costumes for his birthday party as soon as possible she is thrilled to do so. It is a detective-themed party so she starts putting costumes together for Sherlock Holmes, Kojak, Trixie Belden, Nancy Drew and more. What she wasn’t expecting was the birthday boy to end up dead before the end of the party and her party planning friend Ebony to be accused of his murder. Margo decides she needs to actually become a detective, not just look like she plays one on t.v. Her friend needs her help and she is going to find the real killer.
What a great story!! I have been looking forward to this book since I first saw the cover. Disguise DeLimit is quite a store with every costume imaginable and if they don’t have what you want they will custom make it for you. I really like Margo but her father is great person too. He has kept this shop going through thick and thin. His favorite part is traveling to find new costumes for the store. That part has taken a back seat since Margo moved away but he does take a very interesting trip in this book. Ebony, who has a dog named Ivory, that is him on the cover, helped raise Margo and is a mother figure to her. She is a very unique individual with a huge heart. We also meet Tak Hoshiyama but you have to read about him yourself, he starts out as a bit of a mystery and I don’t want to spoil that.
The plot and subplots are excellent. The mystery is kind of a closed room mystery but there are so many suspects and they are all in costume so figuring out the real culprit is no easy task. It came together for me after Margo figured it out. There were so many twists and diversions but it all came together perfectly. I was just not puzzling things out well at all 🙂
There is a Special Preview of the next book in the series, Masking For Trouble, coming in October and great costume ideas and recipes in the back of the book too!
If you are looking for something fun to read this is a perfect choice!
About The Author
I’m a former fashion buyer turned mystery writer, trading fashion accessories for accessories to murder. I was bit by the mystery bug as a kid reading Trixie Belden, Connie Blair, and The Three Investigators. Now I’m writing three series: the Style & Error Mysteries, the Mad for Mod Mysteries, and the Material Witness Mysteries. Coming in Feb 2016: The new Costume Shop Cozy Mysteries!
The Material Witness mysteries feature Polyester Monroe, who inherits the fabric shop where she was born. Books include SUEDE TO REST and CRUSHED VELVET. The third, SILK STALKINGS, will be out in August 2016.
The Style & Error Series features former fashion buyer turned amateur sleuth Samantha Kidd. Books in that series include DESIGNER DIRTY LAUNDRY; BUYER, BEWARE; THE BRIM REAPER; and SOME LIKE IT HAUTE. (A short story, “Just Kidding,” tells the story of how Samantha first met shoe designer Nick Taylor). Book 5, GRAND THEFT RETRO, will be out in 2016.
The Madison Night Mysteries feature a modern day interior decorator who specializes in midcentury design (studying Doris Day movies to get the look right). Books are PILLOW STALK, THAT TOUCH OF INK, and WITH VICS YOU GET EGGROLL. A prequel novella, “Midnight Ice,” can be found in OTHER PEOPLE’S BAGGAGE.
Thanks to the people at Penguin I have 2 copies to give away!
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Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from the publisher. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. Receiving a complimentary copy in no way reflected my review of this book. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255 : “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”