Clutches and Curses (Haley Randolph Series #4)by Dorothy Howell
Life is looking good for amateur sleuth/professional fashionista Haley Randolph. She's even close to getting her hands on the Delicious, the season's hottest purse--until she's hit with a curse from an irate customer at Holt's department store. When things start to go really wrong, Haley transfers to the new store near Las Vegas--and promptly finds the body of Courtney Collins, an old classmate, sprawled across the floor of the menswear department. Now Haley is suspect #1.
Everyone knows Haley was once jealous of Courtney, and Courtney was about to launch a spectacular line of designer bags. And, well, there weren't any witnesses when Haley actually found the body. Since she doesn't look good in prison stripes, Haley will have to get to the bottom of this mystery. Finding the killer won't be easy. . .and getting rid of this curse may mean going against everything a real fashionista stands for. . .
"Frothy. . . The well-crafted plot offers plenty of red herrings." --Publishers Weekly
"A laugh-out-loud wild ride for readers who hang on for the unexpected resolution." --RT Book Reviews
For a vacuous valley girl, what happens in Vegas doesn't stay in Vegas. Haley Randolph would never leave sunny California.
It's got all her best buds and the greatest shopping ever. When Holt's, the downscale department chain Haley works for, asks seasoned employees to head out to Vegas to help open a new store, Haley says no. Her sort-of boyfriend Ty Cameron's family owns Holt's, so she can't be forced to go, and anyway, she's this close to finding her new obsession: the Delicious bag. So when Haley's former beauty-queen mother demands Haley's presence at a hellacious spa week, Haley's as surprised as anyone to find herself suddenly demanding to go to Vegas. Setting up the new store sounds way boring to Haley, so BFF Marcie Hanover arranges for Haley to meet old friend Courtney Collins via Facebook. Courtney's apparently working on a handbag business, so Haley agrees to hang out with her, but when Haley gets to Holt's, she discovers Courtney's body in the fitting room. Now Haley's a suspect in another murder, a stranger in a big city, and she still can't find the bag of her dreams. What's a girl to do? As much as she tries to stay out of trouble, Haley is a magnet for all things mysterious. Luckily she can count on her new Vegas BFF Maya to have her back while she tries to sort out everything else. Can our girl stay out of trouble long enough to get in one good shopping trip?
Howell's voice almost comes off as a satire of herself (Purses and Poison, 2009, etc.)–a little more compassion would make this series a lot more fun.
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Clutches and Curses
By DOROTHY HOWELL
KENSINGTON BOOKSCopyright © 2011 Dorothy Howell
All right reserved.
Chapter One"It's b.s.," Bella grumbled. "You ask me, it's b.s."
"Yeah ...," I said, flipping through People magazine. Bella sat across the table from me in the breakroom of the Holt's Department Store where we were both employed—notice, I didn't say worked. Around us, other employees came and went, clocking in or out, getting a snack from the vending machines or microwaving their dinner.
Bella had been on a rant since we'd sat down. Now, twenty minutes into our fifteen-minute break, she was still going strong. I'm not sure what she was talking about. I drifted off.
How could I not? I hadn't seen this week's People and I was way behind on my celeb news. Plus, it was their fashion issue and I absolutely had to know what was coming up for fall.
It wasn't just a simple need to know. It was way more than that.
I, Haley Randolph, with my print-worthy dark hair and my long pageant legs, had teamed with my very best friend in the entire universe, Marcie Hanover, and started a purse party business. In a matter of months, we'd gone from crazed, obsessive, twenty-something white girls to full-blown successful handbag businesswomen.
It helped that the brains behind our archrivals had been murdered—I mean that in the nicest way, of course.
Anyway, the purse party field was wide open now, and Marcie and I were taking full advantage. Marcie said we should keep our regular jobs—she's almost always right about things—so here I was still pulling down a whopping seven bucks an hour in a midrange department store with ungrateful customers, supervisors who insisted we actually work, and a clothing line that's greatest contribution to the fashion world would be making the "Don't" column in Glamour.
Of course, enriching the lives of deserving women through the sale of knockoff handbags and toiling away at one of L.A.'s least respected department store chains wasn't the sum total of my contribution to the world. I also attended college.
I'd cut-and-pasted my way to a B in my English class and pulled an A in health—thanks to the girl in front of me who never covered her paper—and finished up the spring semester in good shape, academically speaking.
I saw no need to overstimulate my brain by attending the summer session. Honestly, I didn't like college. There had to be a way to get a high-paying job where I could carry expensive purses and wear great clothes and make everybody do what I said, without slogging through semester after semester of school—and hopefully I wouldn't need a college education to figure it out.
"So, are you going?" Bella asked.
"Yeah ...," I said, turning another page.
"What?" Bella exclaimed.
I glanced up. Bella looked at me as if I had antennas coming out of my head and an anal probe in my hand.
Okay, so maybe I should have been paying attention.
"But it's b.s.!" Bella exclaimed.
The whites of her eyes shone in her dark face. Bella was black, tall, and probably close to my age, twenty-four. She worked at Holt's to save for beauty school. In the meantime, she practiced on her own hair.
I guessed she was experimenting with the celestial phase. Tonight she'd fashioned two spheres atop her head. It looked like a solar eclipse—or maybe a lunar eclipse. I don't know. I hadn't taken astronomy yet.
"What's b.s.?" Sandy asked, sitting down at the table with us.
I'd known Sandy since I started working here last fall. Like me, she was a sales clerk. We'd hit it off right away. Sandy was white, blond, and cute and had a boyfriend who routinely wiped his feet on her. She didn't seem to notice—that's how nice she was.
"That's what's b.s.," Bella declared and pointed to the bulletin board beside the refrigerator.
In foot-high red letters was a sign that read EMPLOYEE NOTICE, and an equally large red arrow pointing down to a typed memo.
Jeez, how had I missed that?
Maybe if they'd put stuff like that by the time clock I'd notice.
"Holt's is opening a new store in Henderson—that's right next to Las Vegas—and they're asking for experienced employees to work there for a few weeks to get the store set up," Sandy said. "I think it would be so cool to go there."
"I think it's b.s.," Bella told her.
"Holt's is paying for us to stay in a hotel," Sandy said.
"Some place off The Strip, I'll bet," Bella said. "What kind of trip is that? Sending us to Vegas but not letting us get close to the action?"
"Plus, they're paying us extra," Sandy said.
"How far do you think that little dab of money will go in Vegas?" Bella asked. "How are we going to see a show or eat at the buffet or gamble?"
"It's not a vacation," Sandy said.
Bella shook her head. "It's bs. That's what it is."
"Are you going?" I asked Sandy.
"I already talked to my boyfriend," she said. "He told me not to go. He said he might need me here. He says I'm his muse."
"He does tattoos," I said.
"It's art, Haley," Sandy said.
"The guy's a loser. He treats you like crap. You should dump him," I told her.
I give great advice. I should have my own talk show.
Sandy ignored my words of wisdom—what was up with that?—and asked, "What about you, Haley? Are you going?"
I was with Bella on this one. Staying off The Strip in some midrange hotel, eating at diners and working at Holt's—to say nothing of missing out on all the great shopping—was not my idea of a Vegas trip.
Before I could say anything, the breakroom door swung open and banged against the wall. Judging from the sour look on everyone's face, I figured that Rita, the cashiers' supervisor, was about to spoil everybody's day.
"Break time's over, princess," she barked.
I knew she was talking to me, though I didn't give her the satisfaction of turning to look at her. I already knew what she'd have on—stretch pants and a top with a farm animal on it—and that she'd be scowling.
Rita hated me. I hated her, too. Plus, I'd hated her first and then I'd double-hated her.
She'd jacked Marcie's and my purse party business idea and, thanks to her brainy partner, crushed us.
A few weeks ago, Rita had gone missing—long story—but she'd shown up again. Things hadn't turned out so well for her partner, so Rita was out of the purse party business.
I think she double-hates me back now.
"You're supposed to be serving Bolt." Rita stomped over to our table and pointed to the bulletin board. "Didn't you read the schedule? You're supposed to read the announcements."
I smiled up at her. "Why should I when I've got you as my P.A. to remind me?"
"Go out on the floor and relieve Grace," Rita barked, then stormed out of the breakroom.
The room emptied out—Rita had that effect on people—so I followed along with the crowd and found Grace in the children's department. Grace usually worked in the customer service booth, which was frequently my little corner of retail purgatory, too. Grace was young, went to college—she actually liked it, which was really weird—and always did the coolest things with her hair. Tonight it was spiked up and the tips were Martian green. She really pulled it off. Grace didn't like Holt's any better than I did, so, naturally, we were instant BFFs.
"What the ...?" I murmured when I spotted her.
Grace had on a bright yellow bibbed apron with a blue cursive H on the chest that matched the Holt's sign out front. A tray was strung around her neck by a strap. She looked like one of those cigarette girls you see in black-and-white photos who prowled the nightclubs back in the day. Except, instead of smokes, the tray held little paper cups of some kind of blood-red juice.
"Bolt. Holt's newest product," Grace said, pointing to the sign on the front of the tray showing a bottle of energy drink with a lightning bolt going through it. She set the tray aside and took off the apron. "We're giving out samples to customers. Didn't you see the memo?"
There was a memo?
"Just hand them out to customers and tell them they can buy a bottle at the checkout registers." Grace gave me a sympathetic smile. "Have fun!"
She walked away and I stared at the tray. Jeez, how much humiliation was I supposed to endure for minimum wage?
At least I didn't have to wear a hat.
I put on the apron and slung the tray around my neck. The juice sloshed around in the cups.
Oh well, I decided. This was better than actually waiting on customers. I headed down the main aisle toward the back of the store.
The first two customers I passed eyed my tray but I kept walking. Hey, if they wanted a sample, they would have said so, right?
As I passed the housewares department, I glimpsed a woman from the corner of my eye heading toward me. She had on khaki pants, a floral print shirt, and an I-need-help look on her face. I recognized it immediately and, thanks to many months of providing my own brand of customer service, kept my eyes forward, ignoring her with ease.
"Excuse me? Excuse me?" she called behind me.
I didn't inherit much from my mom. She was a beauty queen. Really. My one and only resemblance to her was my long legs, which made me an enviable five-foot-nine. Tall enough to be a model, had any of my mom's other genes not given up on me in the womb.
So I glided away from this customer as quickly and effortlessly as my mom had glided the moment she'd crossed the stage to claim her Miss California crown. And as she had when she'd accepted third runner-up in the Miss America pageant, still displaying grace, beauty, charm, and a fervent wish for world peace—even though she must have been disappointed enough to snap the heads off each and every judge, with no thought to sustaining cuticle damage.
"Excuse me," the customer called again. "Can you help me?"
She appeared next to me, panting and out of breath, forcing me to stop. She looked as if she could use a shot of Bolt, but I didn't offer it. Really, people should speak up if they want something, shouldn't they?
"I'm trying to find the—"
"I'm only here to distribute the drinks," I said.
I walked away.
Okay, so maybe handing out this Bolt stuff wouldn't be so bad.
I changed my mind a moment later when I saw Rita bearing down on me. She planted herself in front of me and glared at my tray.
"You haven't given out a single sample, have you?" she declared.
"Of course I have," I told her. "I gave out all of them and just refilled the tray."
Yeah, okay, that could have happened.
"Are you telling the customers where to find the bottles?" she demanded.
If I bothered to speak to a customer, I would tell them. Maybe.
"Are you telling them how much it costs?" she asked.
Jeez, how much was this stuff, anyway?
"And that they can charge it to their Holt's accounts?" Rita asked.
No way was I doing that.
"How about the nutritional facts?" Rita asked. "Are you telling them the nutritional information?"
There was nutritional info?
"Of course," I told her.
Rita narrowed her eyes at me, like she didn't believe me or something. Jeez, what nerve.
"Okay," she said, "so how much sugar is in a serving? How many carbs? How many calories?"
"Look, Rita, if you don't know this stuff, I'm not going to stand here and tell you. Read the brochure yourself," I told her and walked away.
At the end of the aisle I glanced back. Rita was gone. I ducked through the double doors near lingerie and into the stock room.
I love the stock room. Aisles and aisles of fresh new merchandise stacked on shelves up to the ceiling. The place is huge—two stories—with a mannequin farm, janitor's closet, returned-merchandise area, and receiving section where the big rigs backed in and the truck team unloaded boxes.
Since I worked evenings, it was almost always quiet back here. The trucks arrived during the day and the ad-set team didn't show up until after the store closed. As usual, tonight I had the place to myself.
In the domestics section of the stock room, I took off my tray of Bolt and pulled two Laura Ashley bed-in-a-bag sets off the shelf. I arranged them on the floor, then sat down.
Oh, yeah, I was liking this Bolt stuff more by the minute.
I settled back and got comfortable, then pulled my cell phone from my pocket. Holt's employees aren't supposed to have phones on the sales floor, but, oh well.
I saw that I had a text message from Marcie. I expected info from her about our next purse party, but instead she was asking me about my date tonight with Ty Cameron.
Ty had been my sort-of boyfriend for a long time, but since we'd finally done the deed, he was now my official boyfriend.
Not that much had changed about our relationship.
Ty was absolutely gorgeous. Tall, athletic build, light brown hair, terrific blue eyes. He's the fifth generation of his family to own and be totally and completely obsessed with running the Holt's Department Store chain—yes, the very same department store where I was sitting on Laura Ashley bed-in-a-bag sets, checking my texts while I was on the clock, and slaving away at minimum wage.
It's a long story.
Anyway, we've had our ups and downs—maybe a few more than other couples. Neither of us could explain our attraction to each other—though I wish Ty would put a little more effort into trying—but, for some reason, we're crazy about each other.
I guess it's a chemical thing.
A few weeks ago, Ty asked me to move in with him. I didn't give him an answer that day—he'd been in Europe for a while and we were busy doing the deed like rabbits—and he hadn't mentioned it again. Until yesterday. He'd asked me to go out for dinner tonight and said he wanted to talk about it.
I glanced down at the tray of Bolt drinks. The stuff didn't look so good, but I grabbed a cup and took a sip. Not bad. I chugged the rest.
In her text message, Marcie offered to come to my apartment tonight and help me pick out what to wear for the big are-we-moving-in-together date. I texted her back that, of course, I wanted her help.
I tossed down another Bolt.
A few minutes later my phone vibrated. Another message from Marcie, this one telling me what time she'd be there.
I took another shot of Bolt—jeez, this stuff wasn't half bad—and sent her a text asking for her thoughts on what I should wear.
While I waited, I knocked back another Bolt. Wow, this stuff tasted pretty good, after all.
Marcie messaged me, I drank another Bolt. I messaged Marcie again. I had another Bolt. We went back and forth, both of us suggesting outfits for me to wear. It had to be perfect. This was a big night.
Finally, Marcie texted that she had to go—she was at work and actually had to go do something for her boss, which was majorly inconvenient—so I put away my phone and shoved the bed-in-a-bag sets back onto the shelf.
One cup of Bolt remained on the tray. Jeez, how had that happened?
Well, no use carrying just one. I gulped it down and headed out onto the sales floor again.
As soon as I'd cleared the lingerie department, a customer popped up from behind a rack of bathrobes.
"You help me," she said.
The woman was old, sort of hunched over, with long black hair she'd tried—and failed—to put up in a bun. She had on a shapeless gray dress and about a dozen odd-looking necklaces. Her skin was dark and she had a funny accent, like she might be Eastern European. Romanian, maybe. I don't know. Is Romania still a country? I haven't taken geography yet.
She pointed to a rack of bathrobes. There was a creepy looking bump on the end of her finger.
"You help me. I need robe," she told me.
"I'm just here to serve the drink," I said and gestured to my tray.
"Drink? You serve drink in store?" she demanded.
She looked kind of squirrelly—not fun-at-a-party squirrelly, more like kill-you-in-your-sleep squirrelly.
I took a step back.
"I'll get you a drink," I said. "I'll be right back."
"No!" The woman waved her gnarled hand. "You American girls, you have everything. You give nothing! You're selfish, selfish, selfish!"
I had no idea what the heck she was talking about, but I wasn't going to hang around and find out—not for seven lousy dollars an hour.
Excerpted from Clutches and Curses by DOROTHY HOWELL Copyright © 2011 by Dorothy Howell. Excerpted by permission of KENSINGTON BOOKS. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
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Haley and her best friend, Marcie Hanover, have started a new business. This is a Purse Party business, and in a small amount of time they have turned a small enterprise into a successful handbag business. But, since the business is new, Haley has kept on the job at Holt's Department Store in order to pay the rent. Haley sees a notice in the break room stating that Holt's will be opening a new store in Las Vegas, and they are asking for experienced employees to work there for a month to get the store set up for business. Haley decides not to go, as she has a new boyfriend and does not want to leave him. Perhaps.she should've gone! While taking care of customers, she ignores one, and said customer puts a curse on her. Haley isn't afraid of curses but, when things start to happen, she takes the store up on their offer and moves to Las Vegas.immediately. The first day of Haley's new job starts off badly: She was late; she was screamed at by the supervisor; and, while heading to the back of the store, she spotted a dark red stain on the carpet outside the dressing rooms. She thought this was just an energy drink called Bolt, but following the trail of red into the dressing room Haley discovers, in the handicapped dressing room, a young woman.dead. The victim turns out to be an old acquaintance and Haley immediately begins to give the curse credence. Finding and capturing the killer, and also getting rid of the curse, is really taking a toll on Haley. She will have to get to the bottom of this mystery pretty quick, or she'll find herself dressing in stripes for a long time. This author is a first rate writer. The suspense, the chills, the characters, and the fantastic humor screams bestseller! Being the fourth book in this amazing series, it is so much fun for readers to look forward to Haley's next adventure. Mystery readers, if they haven't yet, will fall in love with Haley.
Everything was going along quite uneventful for Haley Randolph. Between tolerating her job at Holt's Dept. Store, trying to understand her relationship with "Official Boyfriend", wealthy Ty Cameron; the fifth generation to own the Holt's Dept. Store chain as well as her boss, and the quest for "The Delicious", the ultimate handbag the fashion conscious only dream about, her life was as full and a bit goofy as ever. That was until an irate customer cast a spell on her! Haley scoffed in disbelief until everything started going wrong, including her romance with Ty and having to escape a spa weekend with her former beauty queen Mother which leads her to volunteer to go to Henderson, Nevada to help ready another Holt's Dept. store for their grand opening. With the help of "BFF" Marcie and with the hope of renewing an old "friendship", Haley "friends" a former classmate on Facebook, Courtney Collins, who resides in Henderson and is about to launch her own accessory line. The curse follows Haley to Henderson and Holt's, where she discovers the dead body of Courtney Collins in the store's ladies' dressing room. With no other witnesses to the discovery, the finger is pointed at Haley as prime suspect. The twists and turns her life takes during the investigation and the cast of characters she encounters, (including the elusive "Madame Cee Cee") make this a most enjoyable, easy read. Who committed the dastardly deed?? Courtney's boyfriend, Tony? Somewhat disreputable Mike Ivan? Valerie Wagner, Mother of Courtney's lost love?? Will Haley decide to move in with Ty? Or will her heartstrings be pulled by hunky Jack Bishop? Or maybe suave Detective Shuman? Will she locate the "Delicious" purse of myth and legend? You'll smile, cheer and chuckle and the end will have you begging for more!
I would recommend any Dorothy Howell book as I have loved everyone of them. She also writes as Judith Stacey.
This is my first Howell novel and I truly have enjoyed it! The details that Howell uses regarding the purses, the scenery (Vegas and the surrounding areas), and the Haley's thoughts and feelings are fantastic. Reading first person (and writing it) is sometimes difficult for me to place myself into the story, but Howell has done an exceptional job pulling me into Haley's self-absorbed life. I do feel that I would have understood Haley more had I read the previous three novels in this series. She seems a bit selfish and appears to be a 'me' person a majority of the time, but in the end she knows she has to be selfless every now and again. There are three other side characters that I felt could have been developed further, yet once again, had I read the others, I may have known them more. I do look forward to obtaining the three other novels to find out more about Haley and the other characters, and to see what man she does select to live her life 'happily ever after'. I look forward to adding the previous three novels to my TBR file, as well as other novels by Howell that may come about in the Haley Randolph Mystery series.
Dorothy Howell has delivered yet another wonderful story, continuing the Haley Randolph series in Viva Las Vegas! If the ENTIRE book doesn't keep you wanting more, the last page DEFINITELY will! I'm definitely looking forward to #5-- and urge anyone who loves a great story to pick this up!
I have never read any of the others in this series, but I am not sure that was necessary, there were places which stated something and then said it is a long story which I took to be told in the other books, but did not take away from the storyline in this book. This is very much Stephanie Plum (Janet Evanovich) meets Shopaholic (sophie Kinsella). That twist is different and it was an entertaining story of a very vain woman and the things she gets into. As long as you read it for the fluff and entertainment that it is it is a fine book, if you think too deeply about the book and look for character depth that is not there you may be disappointed. I found it humorous and fast paced.
Haley works at Holt's Department store. Her boyfriend is the owner of of Holt's. When there is a murder Haley's always there to solve it.
Haley Randolph feels her life is on track since Ty Cameron, co-owner of Holt's Department Store, is now her official boyfriend. That does not stop him from leaving her at a moment's notice to go to work. She does not depend on him because she knows he might not be there in time to help her. When a customer asks Haley for help, she ignores the woman. Irate the lady places a curse on Haley. Shortly thereafter she is almost killed from plaster falling. Holt's opening a new store in Vegas so Haley leaves town to help get the place operational. When she enters a dressing room, Haley finds the corpse of former schoolmate Courtney Collins. Haley had contacted Courtney so that they could get together in Vegas, but what she really wants Is first shot of a new bag that a high couture designer created. The police suspect Haley because they know she did not like the victim. Tired of being the one and only suspect, Haley investigates, but her inquiry leads to a second homicide that she believes ties to the first murder. If she figures out that missing link, she will identify the killer. Dorothy Howell is known for her lighthearted amateur sleuth tales starring an intriguing fashionista who forgets about Ty in times of need. Although she does not believe in curses, she reconsiders as sh*t happens to her so turns to a psychic listed in the Yellow Pages. Although Haley has been a suspect before (see Purses and Poison, and Handbags and Homicides) readers will enjoy her antics to lift the curse that she does not believe exists and find the culprit because pinstripes will not go well with her hair. Harriet Klausner