Ever since reading Killer Hair, the debut volume in Ellen Byerrum's Crime of Fashion mystery series, I've been eager to see what the wily and whimsical author would invent for her likable protagonist, fashion reporter Lacey Smithsonian, to investigate as the latest crime trend in Washington, D.C.
Lacey is quick to claim that she never wanted to cover the fashion beat, but she can't deny that she enjoys the power -- over politicians, lobbyists, socialites and D.C. wannabes -- that her column, "Crimes of Fashion," gives her. Nonetheless, covering plans for the capital's new Bentley Museum of American Fashion seems like a pleasant diversion from reporting on the pros and cons of "Power Suits" versus "Capital Camo" or offering fashion tips for the "Prematurely Serious." She's thrilled when her vintage-chic style catches the eye of Hugh Bentley himself, the roguish patriarch of what the local press calls the Royal Family of American Fashion. She's quick to use her unexpected access to the powerful designer to gain the inside track on the story; then a trio of well-dressed bandits target a pricey Bentley boutique.
The more she learns about Bentley, the more Lacey senses a scoop in the making. Her incurable curiosity soon leads her into danger as she explores the chilling parallels between the case of a missing congressional intern who hoped to become Bentley's new spokesmodel and the long-unsolved mystery of a talented young fashion apprentice who had also disappeared while working for the fledgling fashion house during WWII. Lacey calls in favors from sources as varied as an online conspiracy clearinghouse, a top-flight Washington lawyer, and a retired seamstress -- as she pieces together a story that could make her reputation…dead or alive. Sue Stone