Some Like It Lethal (Blackbird Sisters Series #3) [NOOK Book]

Overview

When the husband of a wealthy dog food heiress is found bludgeoned to death at an exclusive hunt club, Nora Blackbird is as surprised as anyone. Worse still, the evidence points toward a devious blackmail scheme-with Nora's sister, Emma, as the main suspect. Investigating with the help of friend and foe alike, Nora uncovers the secrets of ...
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Some Like It Lethal (Blackbird Sisters Series #3)

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Overview

When the husband of a wealthy dog food heiress is found bludgeoned to death at an exclusive hunt club, Nora Blackbird is as surprised as anyone. Worse still, the evidence points toward a devious blackmail scheme-with Nora's sister, Emma, as the main suspect. Investigating with the help of friend and foe alike, Nora uncovers the secrets of some of Philadelphia's high-and-mightiest-and attracts the unwanted attentions of the real killer...



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What People Are Saying

Kasey Michaels
What great, deadly fun!
Jennifer Crusie
Great clothes, great mystery, great fun!
—(New York Times Bestselling author)
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781101099520
  • Publisher: Penguin Group (USA)
  • Publication date: 4/6/2004
  • Series: Blackbird Sisters Series , #3
  • Sold by: Penguin Group
  • Format: eBook
  • Pages: 320
  • Sales rank: 57,891
  • File size: 280 KB

Meet the Author

Nancy Martin

Like her heroines, the Blackbird Sisters, Nancy Martin comes from a distinguished Pennsylvania family whose ancestors include Betsy Ross and a signer of the Declaration of Independence.  She has written numerous novels, directed a few Shakespeare plays, and raised two delightful daughters.


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Read an Excerpt

Chapter 1

After my newly widowed sister Libby gave birth to her fifth child, she decided to become a goddess.

It takes effort,' she advised me when I went into her bedroom to shake her awake one cold November morning. But it's just what you need, Nora.'

I'm too busy taking care of your family,' I said, passing her the squirming body of her newborn son. When you finish transforming yourself, could you make some peanut butter sandwiches for the kids?'

I can't,' she said, taking the child. I've given up peanut butter as a sacrifice to Placida.'

Who?'

My goddess within.' Libby began unlacing the ties on one of her exquisitely embroidered nightgowns in preparation of feeding her frantic son his overdue breakfast. Placida is the deity of tranquility, sexual adventure and weight loss.'

I sighed. Libby, you had a baby just five weeks ago. And you can't expect to lose weight without getting out of bed once in a while. Giving up peanut butter is a good start, but if you quit watching all those episodes of Trading Spaces and get some exercise—'

You don't understand the goddess process, Nora.' Libby plumped the lacy pillows around her voluptuous figure and sat back with a beatific smile as the baby clamped on to her breast like a starving Yorkshire piglet. You must open yourself to the possibilities so the goddess may flow from within you. It's a mental path to all kinds of fulfillment. Why, just last night I had an erotic dream about Dr. Phil.'

As she nursed her perfect baby I looked at my demented sister, with her beautiful skin glowing and her hair in a vixenish sort of tangle and her body all soft and glamorously flaunted, as if ready to be ravaged at Versailles by a Bourbon king. The Blackbird white complexion and auburn hair—which had been passed down through the generations, along with a very peculiar family crest and a seventeenth-century Blackbird blunderbuss—looked demure on me but distinctly more erotic on Libby. After childbirth, women weren't supposed to look as if they'd been airbrushed by Playboy's most gifted photographer, but here was Libby looking divine while I felt as if I'd been beaten with a shovel.

I said, If I strangled you with your own nursing bra right now, it would be justifiable homicide.'

I'm re-centering my life!' she cried. Don't rush me! I must gather my cosmic resources, prioritize my most primal joys and learn to validate my sacred inner magic so I can evolve into the goddess of my mysterious potential. Such a powerful psychological makeover takes time.'

Well, the kitchen floor needs a makeover, too. How about using a mop while I'm out?'

She sat up and widened her eyes in pretty dismay. Where are you going? Good heavens, you're not having clandestine morning sex with That Man, are you?'

Although clandestine sex might tempt me I knew I shouldn't leave Libby's children alone in her custody for any reason whatsoever. Sixteen-year-old Rawlins had taken to suspiciously disappearing late at night with a group of friends who collectively had enough body piercings to start a surgical supply store. The thirteen-year-old twins Harcourt and Hilton were closeted in the basement, making a Santa Claus movie that involved bloodcurdling screams every three minutes, and five-year-old Lucy had invented an imaginary friend who graffitied the living room walls with grape jelly when I wasn't vigilant. The baby, who still had not been bestowed with a name by his goddess mother, couldn't bear to be anywhere but in my arms, except when he was trying to deplete his mother's milk supply.

To top everything off, Libby was lactating with more volume than a dairy cow, so one of my jobs was bottling and freezing the overflow to contribute to a breast milk bank at a Philadelphia foster child agency. Which meant there were even more children who depended on me while Libby lolled in postpartum splendor, dreaming of talk-show hosts and cockamamie deities.

I had no time for anything, including clandestine sex.

That Man,' I said, is fishing in Scotland.'

She settled back against her pillows and muttered, Yeah, sure.'

I turned in the doorway. What's that supposed to mean?'

Libby smoothed the fair hair on her baby's head. Honestly, Nora, if you believe your mob-boss boyfriend has gone fishing, I'm marching straight out to find a bridge to sell you.'

Oh, not that again.'

Do I need flip charts to explain it? Michael Abruzzo is a dangerous man mixed up in so many shady businesses—'

Name one.'

That new chain of gas stations,' Libby said promptly. Gas 'n' Grub? They're popping up all over the place.'

What's wrong with selling gasoline and sandwiches? Besides the indigestion?'

They're cash businesses, Nora. Even you must know what that means.'

He's making a living?' I said, tartly, bringing up a sore subject, since my parents blew the last of the Blackbird fortune and sailed off to a tax-evader's paradise where they spent most of their time rehearsing for the weekly mambo contest.

Libby covered her baby's ears lest he learn about high crime at such a tender age. Michael Abruzzo is laundering money.'

Oh, for crying out loud—'

The papers say he's under investigation.'

He's always under investigation. Because of his family, not himself.'

Well, this is a new one, and he's the star of the show. I heard it on the news last night. It's probably why he's fled the country.'

He hasn't fled! He's taking a vacation.'

Think about it, Nora. If you had ill-gotten gains, you'd want a place to pass the dirty money to an unsuspecting public in small batches. That's why he started Gas 'n' Grub. Vanity Fair had a big article about money laundering last month. Pizza shops: now, those are a gold mine for criminals.'

Michael is not a criminal.'

Which I believed most of the time.

He looks like a criminal,' Libby declared. A sexy criminal, I'll admit, with, okay, a sort of fallen-angel magnetism that some women find attractive, but—'

I'm leaving now,' I said before she could go into her riff about consorting with the devil. Somehow I wouldn't mind so much if I actually enjoyed a little consorting, but lately I'd been stuck refereeing her children. I'll be back in two hours.'

Where are you going?'

I told you. I'm covering the hunt breakfast for the newspaper. And Emma's riding, remember?'

Neither of us had quite gotten the hang of my employment yet. Before I was widowed, I'd spent my adult life being married to a doctor and devoting my time to good works and the Junior League, so when the family fortunes evaporated on tropical breezes, I didn't have a respectable resume for job hunting. But an old family friend who owned a Philadelphia newspaper had found me a position as an assistant to the society columnist. The job required me to attend parties and report on clothes, guest lists and the details of so-called high society entertaining. It was work for which I was singularly suited, having been brought up in a tax bracket where the oxygen was very thin and party planning was an art form. I wasn't going to earn a Pulitzer any time soon, but the job helped me pay down the heart-stopping tax debt on Blackbird Farm.

This morning's assignment was the hunt breakfast at an exclusive fox hunting club just off the Main Line. And I needed to be there shortly after sunrise.

Libby eyed me. Are you going to talk to Emma?'

I'm going to try.'

Maybe I should come along.'

I think I can address Emma's situation in a calm and rational manner on my own.'

Are you implying that childbirth has rendered me incapable of rationality?' Libby asked. I'll have you know there are actually studies that prove motherhood makes you smarter. So you have something to look forward to.'

My sister Libby had plans to make everyone's lives perfect. She decided that I only needed children to reach a state of serenity, and she rarely missed an opportunity to remind me of the maternal rewards that awaited me if I paid closer attention to the expiration date on my ovaries.

After five weeks in the household from hell,' I said, I'm having second thoughts about having a family of my own.'

Libby appeared not to hear me. I think I will go along with you this morning.'

You're kidding, right?'

We should present a united front. Yes, I'll definitely come. I have an invitation around here somewhere.' She disconnected her son from his food source and began to burp him while she imagined the party. It might be a nice reentry into the world for me, too. All those handsome men on horseback!' The look in her eye reminded me of a pyromaniac lighting a match.

Don't start, Libby.'

Don't start what?'

Chasing unsuspecting men as if they were helpless rabbits doomed for the stew pot. You're in a hormonal fever right now. You're a danger to society. I'm not taking you with me. Besides, my car will be here in five minutes, and you'll never be ready.'

I'll follow you later,' she said. Run along.'

What about the baby?' The idea of my lactating sister descending on an early morning party made me fear for the safety of my fellow guests. And the rest of the kids?'

She waved me off. There's plenty of my milk in the fridge, so he'll survive. I'll call a neighbor girl to keep an eye on the mayhem. I want to see you in action. You're always stumbling into excitement, and Placida thrives on exciting events. See you there!'

My driver, Reed Shakespeare, was waiting in the driveway in the predawn darkness when I went tearing outside. He worked for the limousine service Michael owned—one of his many businesses—that had been hired by my newspaper to deliver me to assignments. A part-time college student and barely out of his teens, Reed took his job very seriously. Now experienced with my various moods, especially when I was escaping one of my sisters, he calmly handed me a paper cup of tea—skim milk, no sugar, just the way I liked it—along with the morning newspaper for me to read in the backseat. He opened the rear door for me. He hadn't decided to allow me to sit up front yet, and I was determined to prove myself worthy. But it obviously wasn't going to happen this morning.

Good morning, Reed. Look, I'm sorry, but we're going to have to take the puppy along.'

Reed looked pained.

A small pointed nose poked out of my handbag, and an unholy growl rumbled from the depths of the leather Balenciaga.

Reed said, You used to say you didn't want a dog. You were really firm about that.'

I couldn't refuse your mother, could I? When you think about it, Reed, you're the reason I have Spike in the first place. You have nobody but yourself to blame.'

You could have refused.'

Refuse your mother? Reed, get real.'

Rozalia Shakespeare, a woman of awesome inner strength and a voice perfectly suited to belting spiritual hymns to the highest church balconies, had pushed the puppy into my arms not long after Reed was released from a hospital stay. The bullet that had put him there had been my fault, although his mother felt otherwise. I couldn't refuse her gift.

For months people had been telling me I needed a dog, but I assumed they meant something large, drooling and protective. Instead of a territorial Doberman, however, I was now using my best handbag to carry around a puppy no bigger than a teapot who thought he was a weapon of mass destruction. Spike had a predatory glitter in his slightly cockeyed gaze and a quick and bloodthirsty bite, not to mention other personal habits that made him unpopular with most human beings. After only a month in my possession, he'd sunk a perfect imprint of canine teeth into the left hand of a man I despised and peed on his foot at the same time. Which was the moment I decided to keep him, despite his flaws. Spike, that is, not my old enemy Jamie Scaithe.

But Reed wisely didn't trust the puppy, no doubt because Spike was the offspring of Mrs. Shakespeare's beloved rat terrier-poodle-rattlesnake mix and a legendary neighborhood mongrel that had been featured on Animal Control's Most Wanted list for two years.

Spike popped his head out of my handbag and told Reed in no uncertain terms to back off.

Reed retreated hastily. That dog is dangerous.'

I patted Spike's bristly head and tried to wedge him back into the bag. He's very sweet when you get to know him.'

I can't ever figure out what you're going to take a shine to,' Reed said.

Can we take him along this morning or not?'

Do I have a choice?'

Of course. But any minute my sister will come out here demanding to go with us, so hurry up and decide.'

That information galvanized Reed into action, and he opened the car door. Let's go. Just keep that monster away from me.'

I got into the backseat, and Spike climbed out of my bag. He gave me a smiling puppy yawn before nestling in my lap for an angelic snooze.

Reed pulled out of Libby's driveway as if being chased by a rifle-wielding maniac, then drove me out of Bucks County across the back country roads.

Reed had been driving me around for nearly six months, and so far we seemed suited for each other. I wished I could drive myself, but I was still struggling with an annoying tendency to faint at critical moments. I couldn't be trusted behind the wheel, so Reed had a part-time job between taking classes at a community college.

In about half an hour, the sun began to lighten the horizon and we reached the Tri-County Horse Club.

I thanked Reed and left him to study his textbooks in the car. With Spike tucked securely into my handbag, I threaded my way through the expensive cars that had brought their owners out from the Main Line to the bucolic countryside.

I rounded a boxwood hedge and came upon Hadley Pinkham.

He was leaning photogenically on the nearest fence, with the faded autumn hues behind him making the most of his tanned coloring in the early morning light. He wore a rumpled tuxedo that advertised the fact that he hadn't been home yet after a night carousing on the town. He had removed his tie, however, and wrapped his fringed silk scarf rakishly around his neck to keep off the morning chill. His absurdly handsome face was sharply cut with a long, narrow nose, a flexibly cynical mouth and a dash of fair hair that spilled with false boyishness over what he euphemistically called a high forehead. He carried a glass of something amber in his right hand and a slender cigar in the fingertips of the other. With his sleeve pulled back just so, he showed off a wristwatch that cost more than some oceangoing yachts.

Hadley looked me up and down and said, My God, Nora, you're the only decently dressed woman here. Everyone else makes it look like Ralph Lauren's warehouse just blew up. You look stunning, kitten. Is that a Claude Montana?'

Yes, thanks, Hadley, you glamour-puss.' I'd put on a twelve-year-old jacket bought in Paris during one particularly lush winter of my marriage, along with my faithful black Calvin Klein skirt and a pair of spike-heeled, fawn lace-covered boots that Grandmama Blackbird purchased in 1965 and were, thank heavens, making another miraculous fashion comeback. Underneath it all were my threadbare long johns and a turtleneck sweater from Old Navy. The final look was more Hepburn than horsey, I knew, the kind of fashion juxtaposition Hadley could appreciate. That's high praise, coming from you.'

Fashion is blood sport, kitten. And you are positively mopping the floors with everyone else. Now say something nice about me, and we're even.'

I laughed and kissed his Bijan-scented cheek. Hadley, you're the most beautiful man here.'

I'm simply oozing sex appeal, aren't I? All right, I'll go into this party if you'll promise not to abandon me to any woman with jewelry that pictures dogs or horses. My God, who is this?'

Spike. Be careful, he bites.'

Hadley sipped from his glass and listened respectfully to Spike's tenor snarl. If I looked like that, I'd be bad-tempered, too. What kind of dog is it?'

Today I'm calling him a Romanian weasel hound.'

Well, keep him chained, kitten. He looks hungry. Tell me about you, now. Are you sleeping with anybody these days? It's too boring if you're not.'

I'm not, so you'll have to lie in wait for someone else.'

He took my hand and tucked it into the crook of his arm. You're fibbing. I heard you're dating a menace to society who makes everybody under forty go weak in the knees.'

What about the over-forties?'

The old folks are all horrified. Now dish, kitten, or I'll be forced to torture you with that god-awful sausage that's always on the buffet at these morning things. Just because the club's board has arteries clogged beyond hope doesn't mean the rest of us have a death wish, right?'

I'd first become aware of Hadley Pinkham in our childhood days at the croquet club where his father and my father crossed mallets and swizzle sticks every season. Even then, Hadley had charmed his way into my cousin Brophy's birthday party because my aunt had secured a real elephant for everyone to ride. To the delight of adults and children, Hadley wrapped a waiter's apron around his head and waved from the howdah like a maharajah, and thereafter Hadley had been a mainstay of my social scene. Now a gay blade about town, he was considered the best dance partner, the most urbane dinner companion and the man at the bar most likely to draw a laugh. Of course, his own swizzle stick didn't perk up for women, but Hadley had something better than sex.

He was fun, dammit.

He could talk clothes better than your best girlfriend, sports better than your college boyfriend and art better than your bluestocking grandmother. You could call him up on a Saturday afternoon for a blitz of shoe shopping and tea, but he never wanted to share your dessert. He knew the best people, played the cleverest hand of bridge and frequented the most chichi shops, spas and nightclubs.

And he always, always got through the velvet rope.

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Table of Contents

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Interviews & Essays

Ransom Notes Interview with Nancy Martin

High society and deadly danger make a potent mix in Nancy Martin's third Blackbird Sisters mystery, Some Like It Lethal. Philadelphia upper-crust reporter Nora Blackbird knows that life is about connections -- and she's got plenty of them, with all their attendant complications. She's nearly broke, but her family history among the Philadelphia elite gives her the access she needs for the juicy stories on her beat. But this time the subject of one of those stories is her own sister, who's linked to a homicide at an exclusive hunt club event -- and a web of scandal, blackmail ... and murder. Ransom Notes spoke with Martin about her own connections -- to her readers:

Nancy Martin: Writing mysteries lets me indulge my inner child. (And my inner bitch and inner romantic -- all the extremes of my own personality.) I love the playfulness of creating quirky, entertaining characters and situations.

Nora has her grandmother's vintage clothes and the crumbling old house with the leaky roof -- possessions that make up the Blackbird legacy. But what Nora is discovering is that her relationship with her sisters is what's truly valuable, and what she must fight for. Having come from a distinguished, moneyed family may make Nora initially interesting to readers, but the depth of her character is best revealed when the chips are down. For me, she wouldn't be nearly as fascinating to work with if she had unlimited resources. She must use her wits to overcome adversity, not buy her way out.

My own family "lost our fortune," as my grandmother politely put it, many years ago, but my grandmother never lost the attitude that went with social distinction. A grande dame from the get-go, she gave me an insider's peek into the world of Old Money and American aristocracy. One of my most vivid childhood memories is tailgating at a steeplechase, where the horses paraded past elegant tables set with crystal and silver. I grew up more like Emma Blackbird -- interested in horses instead of debutante balls -- so I've had to do research to get other parts of the lifestyle right. Oh, darn, another black-tie gala to attend for research!

One of the most memorable books I've read was Diana Vreeland's autobiography. That book started me thinking and looking at clothing as art, as creative expression as well as a reflection of personal values. When I realized how great Nora needed to look to do her job in rarified circles, I indulged my interest and invented Grandmama Blackbird's collection of couture. Mind you, this is a fantasy of mine -- having unlimited fabulous clothes at my disposal.

Ransom Notes: What do you like about the contrast between Nora's amateur detective approach to investigations, as opposed to the methods used by her Mafia prince boyfriend, Michael, and the police detective, Ben?

NM: Nora believes everyone is inherently good and if she just asks her good friends for help everything will turn out right. But Michael and Ben know otherwise, and their insider's view into crime sometimes shocks her. Yet she's drawn to them and to danger, so I see a lot of conflict in their futures. The threesome really clashes in Some Like It Lethal. Investigating so-called victimless crimes can be more thought-provoking than crimes where the line between right and wrong is distinct. Nora must make some difficult moral choices this time. I think readers will either love her choices or hate 'em.

I love hearing from readers. Knowing there's somebody out there desperately waiting for the next book is a big morale booster. You can contact me through my web site: www.NancyMartinMysteries.com

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Customer Reviews

Average Rating 4.5
( 24 )
Rating Distribution

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See All Sort by: Showing 1 – 20 of 24 Customer Reviews
  • Posted January 25, 2013

    I Also Recommend:

    #1 Series

    This is a fabulous series. The wacky antics of the Blackbird sisters will leave you wanting more and more. The adventures these sisters get themselves into is believable and realistic. Their story is heartwarming and you will fall in love with them all.

    One of the best things about Nora and her amateur sleuthing is she doesn't push it into crazy I can't believe she did that adventure that you get with a lot of the other stories in this genre. Nora is realistic in her adventure keeping the sleuthing fun and easy like you would expect from someone with out in training.

    If you want a laugh a lot kind of book without having to pull your hair out for the stupidity of the main character that never seems to learn than this is the series for you. Nora Blackbird is a smart woman that knows how to get the job done.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Posted August 20, 2012

    I read my first book by Nancy Martin in "No way to kill a L

    I read my first book by Nancy Martin in "No way to kill a
    Lady" and found her enjoyable. When I sit with a book I look for
    intrigue in a light hearted read. Something cleaver with fun characters
    that keep me captivated. I will continue to read her Blackbird series.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted February 20, 2012

    Highly recommend

    Great series!

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  • Posted September 25, 2011

    Good read! Loved it!

    I loved this book! You never knew what was coming...didn't want to put it down. Goomg to order more of the blackbird mystery. Just love tje class aspect of the story

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  • Posted May 3, 2009

    I Also Recommend:

    Another quirky tale featuring the Blackbird sisters.

    A fun, clever and quick read.

    0 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted June 18, 2005

    cute, fun reading

    if you like this type of 'mystery' it is a fun book. I read it in one day. The main character is very likable, the sister is a hoot--very enjoyable, easy reading.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted November 23, 2004

    Engaging and fashionable sleuth

    Likeable characters and, even though the plot was rather weak, a good enough story to keep you entertained. I will be interested to see how the romance of the two primary characters evolves.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted July 19, 2004

    Couldn't put the book down!!!

    I loved reading this book. I'm from the philadelphia area and i liked reading that this is where the storyline was. The writing and story telling is very good and easy to get sucked into. I had a hard time putting the book down. This was my first read by this author and i can't wait to read her past novels and look forward to her future ones!

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  • Anonymous

    Posted April 21, 2004

    Nora must prove Emma didn't kill Rush Strawcutter

    Nora Blackbird is at another society party. This time it is a hunt club breakfast. Rush Strawcutter, husband of a wealthy dog food heiress, is found bludgeoned to death in a horse stall. Nora¿s sister Emma is found unconscious and bruised nearby. The evidence begins to point to Emma as the main suspect. Nora knows Emma couldn¿t have done it, so she begins to investigate. Nora¿s little sister Libby has just had another baby. Her husband has died ¿ all the Blackbird women are widows, it appears to be a curse. Nora is staying with Libby to help out with the children. Michael, Nora¿s boyfriend who is the son of a mob boss, is out of the country on a fishing trip. The police are looking into possible money laundering and keep asking her about it. To complicate matters, she has a small, ugly puppy Spike who she takes almost everywhere with her in her purse. Nora is from high society but since her parents left the country to avoid a $2 million tax bill, she has had to take a job as a society writer for a Philadelphia newspaper to keep her head above water and hold onto the family farm. As Nora begins to investigate, her friend Hadley Pinkham comes to her aide many times. They know a lot of the same people and end up following one of them into a park. It appears he is paying the blackmailer. Nora knows if she can get to the bottom of the blackmailing, she¿ll probably get to the bottom of the murder as well. Somehow they are tied together. This is a terrific series and this is a great addition to it. I like all the characters and all the parties she attends. Yet she seems to be a normal person most of the time. Her boyfriend Michael and Detective Bloom both add a lot of color to the story as well. I always look forward to reading the next book in the series. I find it hard to put it down once I start! I highly recommend this one!

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    Posted August 3, 2011

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