|Leslie Caine: Death by Inferior Design|
Dell (Paperback), ISBN 0440241758
TLC's hit show Trading Spaces is never deadly. Sure, some homeowners scream when they find their walls covered in something other than paint, and others might cry at the sight of their family heirloom furniture painted lime green, but no one ever dies. In that way, Death by Inferior Design differs greatly from Trading Spaces.
Death by Inferior Design introduces Erin Gilbert, a twenty-something interior designer in Crestview, Colorado struggling to make her name known and beat out her competition, Steve Sullivan. When Erin pulls up in front of her latest job, a secret bedroom redesign planned by Carl Henderson for his wife, her heart sinks when she sees Sullivan's van on the street. Her instincts tell her to run, but her wallet and her ego tell her to stay, and stay she does.
Soon Erin wishes she had listened to her instincts. The job turns out to be a contest between herself and Sullivan set up by Carl Henderson, and his neighbors Kevin McBride and Randy Axelrod. Determined to do her best to show Sullivan and the homeowners her design acumen, Erin throws herself into the project. But when she discovers a hidden panel in the homeowners' wall, her focus changes from fabric to family. Behind the paneling, she finds letters and a baby picture. Of herself.
Recalling her adoptive mother's dying admonishments to never look for her birth parents, Erin tries desperately to ignore the picture, but she can't help but look at all the homeowners involved as possible parents. Just when she gets her mind around the photo, someone murders one of the homeowners, possibly with poison found in her van. With no one else to trust, Erin turns to Sullivan for support and understanding.
Much like the recipes in Diane Mott Davidson's novels, design tips pepper Leslie Caine's novel, using Erin's landlady, Audrey Monroe as a vehicle. Audrey's TV show, Domestic Bliss, serves to provide readers with a plethora of domestic goddess tips. Caine also uses Erin's musings to sprinkle the prose with design tips.
Death by Inferior Design combines all the elements readers love in a cozy; a smart heroine with an interesting job, a murder, a cast of characters hiding their own secrets and a vague love interest that will hopefully develop in further installments. Caine balances Erin well, making her likeable and friendly without making her perfect or quirky to the point of being annoying. Caine also avoids the trap of becoming too fluffy and airy. Bad things happen and Erin does not shy away from them. She also possesses a brain and feelings, providing the book a theme, an oft missing element of cozy novels. Hopefully, Caine can make her next installment, False Premises as delightful.
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