Dating Is Murder

Dating Is Murder

4.2 5
by Harley Jane Kozak

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Wollie Shelley, the plucky amateur sleuth Kirkus Reviews called “funny, brave, smart, and altogether the fetchingest crime heroine since the early Stephanie Plum,” returns to face suspect lovers and unlovable suspects in this hilarious sequel to Dating Dead Men.

Wollie Shelley is a greeting card artist struggling to keep afloat


Wollie Shelley, the plucky amateur sleuth Kirkus Reviews called “funny, brave, smart, and altogether the fetchingest crime heroine since the early Stephanie Plum,” returns to face suspect lovers and unlovable suspects in this hilarious sequel to Dating Dead Men.

Wollie Shelley is a greeting card artist struggling to keep afloat financially and to pursue—despite a series of recent disasters—the search for the love of her life. She reluctantly agrees to be a contestant on the reality television show Biological Clock. The show’s premise: Six eligible singles date each other, and the audience votes on which couple would make the best parents. Alas, Wollie isn’t having much luck finding a man she’d like to date “off the air,” much less father her child. As her own biological clock ticks away, Wollie gets caught up in a much more pressing demand on her time. Her friend Annika has vanished into thin air, and Wollie is convinced that she’s in grave danger.

When Wollie reports the disappearance to the Los Angeles Police Department, however, the detective assigned to the case seems more interested in dating Wollie than in finding her friend. So Wollie springs into action—and lands right in the middle of an FBI investigation into an international drug cartel. She soon finds herself being stalked by an assortment of threatening characters, including her fellow television contestants, who will stop at nothing to beat the clock.

With Dating Is Murder, Kozak delivers another sparkling treasure, a laugh-out-loud-funny, literate mystery for readers of Janet Evanovich and Sue Grafton and for Kozak’s own growing legion of fans.

Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
“Pure screwball fun.” — The Denver Post

Publishers Weekly
Having survived serial dating in Dating Dead Men (2004), Kozak's Wollie (short for Wollstonecraft) Shelley takes on a new challenge by participating in Biological Clock, a reality show featuring women "d'un age certain," in her stellar second adventure, set against the L.A. backdrop her actor-creator knows so well. The goofy TV production is yet another means to help Wollie save her greeting card line (Good Golly Miss Wollies) and care for her mentally ill brother, P.B. In the midst of all the wicked dating fun, Wollie finds herself looking into the disappearance of Annika, a German production assistant who also works as an au pair for Maizie Quinn, a glossy Encino supermom. The hunt for Annika, who's also Wollie's math tutor, proves to be far more intriguing than being one of three women dating three men while waiting for the audience's verdict "on which combination of genes should produce a child." Wollie's investigation soon brings her onto the radar of a sexy pseudo-stalker federal agent, who keeps warning her off the case, to no avail. As witty as early Evanovich and as irresistible as current Crusie, Kozak establishes her unique voice in Wollie's wistful, self-deprecating but stubborn working-class persona that fans of diva lit (chick lit that's grown up and added a body count) will love. The pace of this quirky cool mystery never falters, and the breezy characterizations will inspire more than a few to ask the author, "So, you gonna play Wollie in the film or what?" Agent, Renee Zuckerbrot. (Mar. 15) Copyright 2005 Reed Business Information.
Library Journal
Wollie Shelley is back from Dating Dead Men, ready to try again. Here, she gets involved in a reality TV show but is sidetracked when friend Annika disappears. Copyright 2004 Reed Business Information.
Kirkus Reviews
Wollie Shellie is big-chested, big-hearted, and just as big a smash here as in her debut. "In my next life," says Wollie (Dating Dead Men, 2004), "if I'm a woman again, I'm going to be petite." At the time, she's stuck in the kind of narrow aperture hard for robust six-footers to negotiate. But troubles of that sort, though frequent in Wollie's hectic life, are transitory. Smarts, guts, wit, indomitable sweetness, and irresistible charm are her constants. Wollie-short for Wollstonecraft, the name given her by a hippie mom who should never be allowed to stray from her ashram-is something of a TV star as her second adventure gets underway. Biological Clock, the reality show on which she's a contestant, has provided some of the cash she needs to prop up her greeting-card business. And there's a bonus in store if the audience decides she's the best bet for eventual parenthood. Instead of that rosy future, a young woman friend vanishes, a young male friend of the young woman is murdered, and Biological Clock develops an unsettling dark side. Even more unsettling, however, is the advent of smooth, suave, hunky Simon Alexander. What's a girl to do when an FBI agent turns out to be her type? Lively prose, seamless plotting-and, good golly, there's Wollie. Agent: Renee Zuckerbrot

Product Details

Crown Publishing Group
Publication date:
Wollie Shelley Series, #2
Product dimensions:
5.25(w) x 8.00(h) x 0.75(d)

Read an Excerpt


"Moth harmonica."

That's what it sounded like, the guttural, heavy-accented syllables coming through my answering machine. A piece of haiku, until the woman rattled off an almost unintelligible series of digits that went on and on, like a credit card number or the miles from earth to Jupiter. I picked up the telephone.

"Hi, this is Wollie," I said. "Who's this?"

"California? America? Ja?"

"Yes, California, America. Who's this?"


"No, not Encino, West Hollywood. Forty minutes away, traffic permitting. Who's this?"

"Ja, ja, who this?" she asked.

"That's what I'm asking," I said. "Who are you?"

"I am Moth Harmonica."

Okay, I've heard worse. My own name, Wollstonecraft Shelley, is no picnic, especially for a girl. Or woman, as my friend Fredreeq insists I refer to myself. "Who are you trying to call, Moth?" I asked.

"Who are you?"

"No, who are—" I stopped. This could take a while, and I didn't have a while. "I think you have the wrong number," I said, and this brought forth a flurry of words that started with "Nein! Nein!" and ended with "Annika."

"Annika?" I said. "Wait. Not moth—you're—mother. Of Annika. You're Mrs. Glück?"

There was an excited assent, lots of Ja! Ja!s, and another flurry of words. I closed my eyes and took a deep breath, trying to dispel a sudden bad feeling.

"Meine Annika," Mrs. Glück said, "called not tomorrow—no, no, yesterday—and yesterday is Sunday, we call every week Sunday. So I leave message for host family, but called me not back. I feel for Annika Gefahr, um, danger, sie ist in big danger, as sie call not Sunday."

I was nodding now. My friend Annika had called her mother from my apartment the previous week. "She would freak out if I did not call each Sunday," Annika had said. "But she will call me back so it will not be on your bill." Which was why Mrs. Glück had my number.

I said, "I'd really like to help you, but I have no idea where Annika is. She's tutoring me in math, and we were supposed to meet last night"—I hesitated, not wanting to admit how I'd worried, thinking, Annika's never even late—"and she didn't show."

"Ah, Gott im Himmel, sie is dead."

"No, I'm sure she's not dead, I'm sure she's—" The doorbell rang. "Can you hold on?"

I zipped through the kitchen and living room and opened the door to Fredreeq, told her to give me two minutes, and zipped back to the kitchen. "Mrs. Glück?" I said. "I'm sure Annika will turn up, and if I hear from her first—"

"Nein, nein, for me you must to find her. The host family call me not back, and the agency call me not back, no one in United States of America to—"

"But if she's really missing, I'm sure her host family will contact the police—"

"Nein, no Polizei, no trouble—you are friend, ja? So you are to ask host family what is happen. For my daughter. Mein Kind."

Fredreeq, having followed me into the kitchen, pointed to her watch and mouthed the words "Joey" and "double-parked." I nodded and waved her off. "Okay," I said. "Do you have the host family's number? All I have is Annika's line, with her machine." On which I'd already left two messages.

Minutes later I hung up and turned to Fredreeq, who was studying the contents of my refrigerator. It was early evening in late November, dark in my kitchen, but my friend was illuminated by the utility bulb. It was enough. She wore a tight, fringed jumpsuit in hot pink, low-cut with a big plastic zipper running the length of it. She had the kind of va-va-va-boom body that could pull this off, and the kind of temperament that would want to. Her hair this week was as blond as mine, not unusual in Los Angeles, but whereas I had pale skin to go with it, Fredreeq was black, a less common combination. "Where's your water?" she asked.

"In the sink."

"You don't have bottled water? What do you take on the road?"

"I don't take water on the road."

"Sister, you have got to change your ways," she said, herding me into the living room. "You have cosmetic responsibilities now. Who is this Monica person?"

"Annika, not Monica. Our Annika, from the show. Her mother in Germany says she's—disappeared." I grabbed my keys and backpack, alarmed at the word I'd just said.

"And who does the mother think you are, the FBI?"

"She doesn't know who I am, she just happened to have my phone number. She can't reach the host family—Annika's an au pair, did you know that?"

Fredreeq handed me my jean jacket. "What are you doing answering your own phone? We gotta get you thinking like a celebrity."

The word "celebrity" made me want to hide under the bed with a bag of Oreos. But Fredreeq had overstated it. I was only a celebrity to those rare people who watched a TV reality show called Biological Clock—too few in number, according to the Nielsen ratings, to materially affect my life. I reminded myself of this as I followed Fredreeq out of the apartment, down the stairs, and out to the street.

Rush-hour noise from Santa Monica Boulevard accosted us. There was pedestrian traffic too as we walked down Larrabee, mostly male, as befits a neighborhood known as Boystown. Fredreeq attracted her share of attention, her skintight jumpsuit an object of desire. West Hollywood is a bastion of gay and lesbian culture, which I, as a heterosexual female, found comforting in ways I didn't exactly understand.

I caught myself really looking at people, on the street, in cars. Looking, illogically, maybe, for someone considerably shorter than I, brown-haired, apple-cheeked, pretty. A girl in the last days of her teens. Annika.

"There's Joey," Fredreeq said, waving to a green Mercedes stuck in slow traffic on Santa Monica, a mass of red hair visible in the driver's seat. "What's she doing circling the block? I told her to stay put. C'mon, let's catch up." She grabbed my hand and we ran as fast as her three-inch heels allowed, click-click-clicking our way to Joey.

My friends were driving me to the night's location of Biological Clock. The reality show featured three women d'un certain âge, as Joey put it, dating in rotation three men of various ages, so the TV audience could ultimately vote on which combination of genes should produce a child, with or without romantic involvement on the part of the chosen couple. I was one of the women.

It hadn't been my idea.

Here's how it happened. I'd been—okay, still was—recovering from a broken engagement to a guy named Doc. Doc had some issues that stood between him and marriage, namely, a wife and the certainty of an ugly custody battle for their daughter, Ruby, once the wife became an ex-wife. The wife was keeping Ruby in Japan, so Doc had taken a job in Taiwan to be nearby, production work on an American film called Mao, the Movie, which threatened to go on as long as the Cultural Revolution. Custody would be a problem for six years, until Ruby turned eighteen, and Doc felt I shouldn't wait for him. Joey and Fredreeq agreed. I felt otherwise, but nobody seemed to care about my opinions any more than Chairman Mao had cared about the opinions of the bourgeoisie.

Joey's husband, meanwhile, had invested money in this reality show, Biological Clock, which had inspired Joey and Fredreeq to send my audition video to the casting director. I hadn't known I'd made an audition video. I'd thought I was being interviewed for Fredreeq's niece's sociology project. Apparently, though, me talking about my dating history was compelling stuff. Also, I was the right age and had attributes—big chest, long legs, and height, six feet of it—that made a nice visual contrast to the other two front-runner women contestants, and I'd thus beaten out several hundred hopefuls for the job. Not that I'd wanted the job. I'd turned it down flat once it was explained to me. I found the premise of the show cheesy, despite the disclaimer at the end of each episode that no couple would be required to have sex or bear children. As for fame, I'd have been happy to fork over my fifteen minutes to someone else, the way senators give away their floor time in debates to fellow senators.

But then Biological Clock had mentioned money. Despite the low budget, I'd be paid five hundred dollars a week for two nights' work, unusual for reality TV. And that wasn't all. The producers had invested in a number of other businesses, including a health maintenance organization offering benefits to the winning contestants and their dependents, current and future. Some people say insurance isn't sexy, but for those with dependent paranoid schizophrenic brothers on pricey antipsychotic medication, it's sexy enough.

A horn honked.

"Girl, you got some kind of bad gene that makes you change lanes every twenty seconds?" Fredreeq asked Joey.

"Yeah, it's called effective driving."

"Well, maybe they do that in Nebraska to get around the cows, but here people get shot for those maneuvers." Fredreeq and Joey had an ongoing city mouse, country mouse routine, although Joey was no more country than any other ex-model/actress who'd lived in L.A., New York, and Paris for the last fifteen years. "And can we turn down this twangy banjo stuff? You want people to think you're a hick?"

"I am a hick. Hey, Wollie," Joey threw over her shoulder, "why so quiet?"

"Cell phone." I'd dialed the number Mrs. Glück had given me for Annika's host family. In Encino, a machine answered. The voice was warm, chatty, female. "Hi there. You've reached the Quinns. Gene, Maizie, Emma, Annika, and Mr. Snuggles can't come to the phone right now. But leave us a message and we'll call you back. Bye-bye. Woof."

"Hi," I said, envisioning the people Annika had described. "I'm trying to reach Annika, your au pair. If she's not around, I'd appreciate a call from any of the Quinns. Preferably one of the humans." I spelled out my name and repeated my home and cell-phone numbers.

"Is that our Annika? From the show?" Joey asked. "How's she doing?"

"I'm not sure," I said. "She seems to be sort of . . . missing."

Joey turned to me. Traffic was at another dead stop as we neared Beverly Hills. Fredreeq had switched on the interior car light to rummage through her purse, and the glow made Joey's eyes very green and her face very white against her auburn hair. She was more than beautiful; she was intriguing, with a subtle scar running from temple to chin, white on white, a half-moon. "What do you mean, missing?" she said.

"She didn't show up for my math tutorial last night. And she didn't call her mom in Germany, which is her Sunday night ritual, so her mom is seriously upset, and she doesn't know a soul in America. Except me. And the host family, who's not returning her calls."


"What is?"

Traffic moved. Joey faced forward. The Mercedes inched ahead. Our eyes met in the rearview mirror. "Annika," she said. "On the set last week, she was asking people where she could get hold of a gun."


"The set" is one of those show biz terms that always makes me think of dancing girls in the forties doing the cancan on a stage at the MGM studio, or maybe a street in the Old West, the saloon and general store and jail all false fronts with nothing but fields behind. The set of Biological Clock, however, was whatever bar, bowling alley, or bistro Bing Wooster and the producers could persuade to let us film in. It wasn't filming but taping, as Joey pointed out, but Bing, who had filmmaking aspirations, had us all using movie lingo.

It was going on nine p.m. The set du jour was a restaurant called Pine on Beverly Boulevard, on a site that had seen a lot of restaurants come and go over the years. The fact that Pine was the kind that let a show like B.C. shoot there did not bode well for its longevity.

"Keep it moving, folks," Bing Wooster said to the onlookers gathered with us on the sidewalk in front of Pine. "Come on, it's L.A. You never saw a film shoot before? Never saw a gorgeous six-foot blonde? Go watch her on TV. Eleven p.m. weeknights, ZPX."

I stopped scanning the crowd for teenage German girls and tried to look unconcerned, as if Bing's speech had nothing to do with me, as if the sidewalk were full of six-foot blondes wearing too much makeup. Bing was our big kahuna. Joey had explained that most shows have producers and directors and cameramen, but Biological Clock, being low budget, had Bing. Bing made creative decisions, operated the camera, and generally played God, six nights a week. Bing had an assistant, Paul, who did everything else: lighting, heavy lifting, crowd dispersal, and sending out for pizza. There was also Isaac, the sound guy, but he was so quiet that, despite his being the size of a grizzly bear, we tended to forget he was there. At the moment, Paul was changing tape, which was why Bing and I were stuck on the sidewalk, waiting to videotape me walking into Pine.

"Bing?" I said. "When did you last see Annika?"

Bing frowned at a figure halfway down the street, a bulked-up guy with a goatee. "Who? Annika? Saturday, maybe. I don't know. Paul, let's go, let's go, let's go."

Paul nodded, his baseball cap bent over the Betacam, a twenty-five-pound video camera the size of a small dog, something I was trying to make friends with.

I tried again. "Because Joey says—"

"Oh, well, if Joey says, let's all pause to listen to Joey, our instant producer . . ." Animosity curdled his voice. Since Joey's husband was the new investor in Bad Seed Productions, Bing was convinced that Joey was there to spy on and eventually wrest power from him. "What does our esteemed Mrs. Rafferty-Horowitz say?"

"That Annika talked to you about buying a gun," I said.

Bing stared at me for a moment, then glanced at the goateed guy down the street. "What am I, the NRA? Paul, thirty seconds to reload that camera or you're fired."

"I can't be fired, I'm not paid enough."

I said, "Because she's disappeared, Bing. Annika. Have you noticed?"

Bing looked at me again. "What do you mean, disappeared?"

"I mean that nobody's been able to reach her for—well, I don't know how long, exactly, but at least twenty-four hours. Which is scary. It's not like her."

Bing's eyes grew wide, stricken. "She's not here? I have a call in to the German guys tonight, I need her to translate."

Meet the Author

HARLEY JANE KOZAK is an actor whose screen credits include Parenthood, The Favor, and Arachnophobia. Her debut novel, Dating Dead Men, received wide critical praise. She lives in Topanga Canyon, California.

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Dating Is Murder 4.2 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 5 reviews.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
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Guest More than 1 year ago
Wollie Shelley creates greeting card sayings, but she¿s also an artist. Currently she¿s painting a mural for friends while they are on their honeymoon. Her friends talk her into being a game show contestant on the reality TV show Biological Clock. The three female contestants each date the three male contestants. The audience will vote on which couple would make the best parents, but the winners do not have to have a baby. Wollie¿s friend Annika, who also helped out behind the scenes at Biological Clock, has vanished, and Wollie is convinced she¿s in danger. Annika¿s mother calls from overseas, and Wollie decides to help. She begins interviewing the family Annika was an Au Pair for. The police don¿t take her disappearance seriously. The detective seems interested in Wollie, not Annika¿s disappearance. Wollie finds herself being stalked by various characters. She ends up in the middle of an FBI investigation. As she continues to investigate to find Annika, she finds herself getting deeper and deeper in danger. Will she be able to find Annika without putting herself in grave danger? Is someone on the show connected to Annika¿s disappearance? Can she finish out the show? I really like Wollie. She is so much fun. She gets herself into many interesting situations, and it¿s always fun seeing how she¿ll get out. Her friends are great as well. I like the setting of LA for these novels. I really adds character to the story. This is a fun chick lit, cozy mystery and I highly recommend it. Be aware. You won¿t be able to put it down as you¿ll want to know what happens to Wollie next.
harstan More than 1 year ago
Because of her friends and the lack of income from her Good Golly Miss Wollies greeting card artistry, Wollstonecraft ¿Wollie¿ Shelley is a contestant on the new reality TV show Biological Clock. Her two pals entered her name and key stats, big chest, big legs, big bod and she was accepted as the perfect six foot contrast to the other female contestants. Wollie would trade in her fifteen minutes of Warhol fame for money so she agrees to the opportunity. Three women date three men with the audience deciding who should mate and produce the next generation...................... While dating on the air, Wollie¿s math tutor Annika vanishes. Unable to stay out of the situation, Wollie finds LAPD lacking interest in the case except for a cop wanting to take her out. So Wollie decides to look for the busy Annika, who besides teaching works as a production assistant and as an au pair for an Encino superwoman. As she makes some fumbling progress, a stalker warns Wollie to back off or else. Being Wollie and attracted to the stalker, she chooses or else..................... Chick lit meets amateur sleuth in Southern California. Wollie is as irreverent as ever though her dates seem a bit livelier than her previous appearance (see DATING DEAD MEN). The story line never takes itself seriously as it spoofs reality TV, chick lit novels, and amateur sleuth who-done-its. The cast starting with Wollie, but also her friends, her TV dates, the stalker, and the missing Annika come together to provide a humorous take on DATING IS MURDER.......................... Harriet Klausner