Go to Homepage   Barbara Jaye Wilson: Capped Off

 

Avon Twilight Books (Paperback),
ISBN 0380803550
Fashion can be murder, and nobody knows it better than Brenda Midnight, the intrepid milliner/detective heroine of Barbara Jaye Wilson's Capped Off, the fourth in the Brenda Midnight mystery series. 

In between designing hat couture for the fashion-conscious of New York, Brenda moonlights as Greenwich Village's version of Nancy Drew, sans the sleuthing skills and connections. Unless, of course, dating the star of Tod Trueman, Urban Detective counts. This time around, it isn't her nose that gets stuck where it doesn't belong. It's a gun -- the probable murder weapon in the untimely end of fashion buyer Doreen Sands -- conveniently deposited in one of Brenda's hatboxes.  

Out of self-preservation, Brenda offers her assistance. If they can't find the real killer, they might try to pin it on her. So Brenda begins digging through the veiled and brimmed world of the New York millinery set in search of a killer. What she finds instead leads her to possible copy-cat designing, a jealous woman scorned, and evidence that one of the lead detectives might know more about the vic than her post-mortem stats.  

Mix all this in with a sudden boom in Midnight Millinery's retail popularity and a hat fashion show to turn the millinery-impaired on their naked heads, and it's just another typical day in the life of New York's most fashionable junior-detective.

As Brenda bumbles through her investigation, bouncing from one potential suspect to another like a pogo stick on meth-amphetamines, Wilson weaves the reader through the culture of the Village's fashion district with all the grace of a district veteran. It would be easy to get lost in the miles of fabric and ego that encircle the part of New York Brenda calls home. Wilson never lets us get lost, despite Brenda's mental discombobulation as the chase wears on. Wilson makes us feel at home in the milling streets of the Big Apple, in Brenda's favorite eatery, in her apartment and office.  

As a heroine, and as a detective, Brenda is far more "us" than she is "them" -- us being the normal, everyday people who reads mysteries, not the superwoman-cum-Sherlock Holmeses that seem to be so prevalent in the cozy mystery genre. We can identify with the oftentimes-misdirected Brenda Midnight and her well-meaning ways. We can even identify with the wrong turns she makes along the way to sewing up the loose ends. However, it may be hard to forgive any woman who can play on-again, off-again with a handsome TV hunk.  

If Brenda wants to live happy ever after, she'll have to catch the crafty criminal who decided to accessorize one of her cocktail numbers with gunmetal gray. She just has to keep from showing her simply to die for collection six feet under in the process. 

Diana L. Marsh

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