Part-time sleuth and full-time fashionista Haley Randolph just won an all-expenses-paid vacay at the Rowan Resort. The island has everything Haley imagined: pristine beaches, posh accommodations, and possibly Brad Pitt. But trouble soon looms on the horizon when Jaslyn Gordon, a maid at the island resort, goes missing. And while practically looting the resort for a Sea Vixen beach bag, Haley of course finds the maidon the beach. . .and clearly dead.
Everyone at the resort says Jaslyn's death was just an accident, but Haley thinks there's a lot going unsaid. Haley's faced down clever criminals before and always come out on top, but this malicious murderer might be too crafty. And though she's dying to get her hands on a Sea Vixen, she also wants to live long enough to be seen with it. . .
About the Author
Dorothy Howell was inspired to write her first Haley Randolph mystery, Handbags and Homicide, by her crazed obsession with designer purses. She lives in Southern California, where there is, thankfully, no rehab program for handbag addiction, and is hard at work on her next Haley Randolph mystery. Visit her website at DorothyHowellNovels.com.
Read an Excerpt
Beach Bags and Burglaries
By DOROTHY HOWELL
KENSINGTON PUBLISHING CORP.Copyright © 2014 Dorothy Howell
All rights reserved.
"You booked us on Alcatraz," Bella said.
I gazed across the ocean at the island shrouded in fog — or maybe it was cloud cover, or haze, or smog. I don't know. This was the California coast. It could have been anything.
"I didn't book us on Alcatraz," I told her.
"Is it Skull Island?" Bella asked.
I looked again at the outline of the stone hotel and the thick vegetation on the hills rising behind it. Yeah, okay, it did kind of look like Skull Island.
Bella and I were standing in the valet line outside the Rowan Resort welcome center. We'd just caravanned from Los Angeles, our friends Marcie and Sandy following us.
Two cars had been required for the trip because each of us had brought multiple suitcases, garment bags, totes, and duffels, all of which were absolutely necessary — I mean, jeez, we were staying a whole week.
We were all dressed in the latest resort wear. I had maxed out an impressive number of credit cards for the occasion.
I was willing to do more, of course. Vogue magazine had declared the Sea Vixen — a gorgeous polka dot beach tote — the it bag of the season, and I absolutely had to have one. In the last few days I'd scoured every high-end shop in L.A. and hadn't located one. It was majorly disappointing, but no way was I giving up the search.
Sandy jumped out of Marcie's car, while Marcie sat behind the wheel fiddling with her cell phone.
"Wow, Haley, this is totally awesome," Sandy said. "I can't wait to get there!"
According to the itinerary provided by the travel agent, we would relax in the comfort of the VIP lounge until we were picked up by a limo and driven to a helicopter for the flight to our all-expense-paid vacation at one of the world's most exclusive locations. The Rowan Resort catered to the every whim of A-list celebrities, royalty, and millionaires, offering privacy and seclusion amid ultra luxurious accommodations.
So you might be wondering why I, Haley Randolph, a part-time salesclerk at the I-don't-tell-anyone-I-work-there Holt's Department Store — although I'm quick to mention my way cool job as an event planner at L.A. Affairs — could afford such a fantastic vacation for not only myself but my three BFFs. Honestly, the whole thing was a bit hazy to me, too.
Not long ago I won a contest at Holt's — long story — and the grand prize was a seven-day cruise. I'd also won yet another contest at Holt's — again, long story — but the so-called prize required that I work at the Holt's corporate office, something I had no interest in doing, so I'd put that whole thing on ignore.
Anyway, when I called the travel agency to ask about booking the cruise, I was told the prize had been upgraded to a week at the Rowan Resort, which was cooler than cool, of course, and that absolutely anything and everything was mine for the asking.
I had no idea why the prize had been changed, but I rolled with it.
Seeing no reason not to take advantage of the situation, I immediately asked my three BFFs to come with me. I mean, really, who else would I invite?
Marcie and I had been friends forever. We're both twenty-four years old, but that's where any resemblance ended. She was short and a blonde. I was a five-foot-nine brunette.
We could pass for a ventriloquist act.
I'd met Bella — standing side by side we looked like piano keys — and Sandy — a redhead whose mother had, apparently, identified a little too closely with Olivia Newton-John in Grease — about a year ago when I took the salesclerk job at Holt's.
So you also might be wondering why I didn't have a boyfriend to take with me on this fabulous vacation. Actually, I had a boyfriend. His name was Ty Cameron. Ty was the fifth generation in his family to run the chain of Holt's Department Stores. He was handsome, smart, and generous, and he looked great in an Armani suit.
We broke up.
I'm not thinking about that now. I'm on vacation.
An army of valets swarmed around our cars — even though Marcie's Toyota and my Honda weren't the Jaguars, Porsches, and Mercedes they were used to seeing here at the welcome center — as a woman in a burgundy suit greeted us. A gold name tag that read Millicent, Hostess was pinned to her lapel.
"Welcome," she cooed. "How was your drive, Miss Randolph?"
I had no idea how she knew who I was. Maybe searching guest info on the Internet was part of the service.
"Is Brad Pitt here? I saw online that he was here," Sandy said. "Oh my God, I'd die if I saw Brad Pitt."
Millicent gave Sandy an indulgent smile, then ignored her comment and gestured toward the doors of the welcome center. "Your lounge is waiting."
Bella cast another glance at the island. "We've got to fly to that place?"
"The Rowan Resort is a quick flight —"
Millicent stopped midsentence and did a double-take at Bella's hair.
That happens a lot.
Bella's goal was to be a hairdresser to the stars — she worked at Holt's to save for beauty school — and she practiced on her own hair. Today, in keeping with the tropical theme of our vacation, she'd styled a dolphin atop her head.
Millicent recovered and said, "It's a quick flight in one of our luxury helicopters."
"There's no bridge?" Bella asked.
Millicent displayed yet another indulgent smile. "The island is miles from the mainland. A bridge across that expanse of the Pacific Ocean is an engineering impossibility."
"What about one of those ferry boats?" Bella asked.
"A ferry once took guests and family members back and forth, but that was many years ago," Millicent explained. "Now our guests fly in using one of our helicopters."
"That's the only way to get on and off that island?" Bella asked.
Millicent gave her an I-give-excellent-customer-service-no-matter-what smile, then said, "A dock is located on the north side of the island where supply boats come in. But you needn't concern yourself with them. Our security personnel are on duty at the dock and helipad, ensuring complete privacy during your stay."
Millicent didn't hang around to answer more questions. She headed inside, leaving us to follow.
"Haley, this is so cool. We're going to see all kinds of celebrities, I just know it," Sandy said as she hurried past me.
Bella threw another look at the island, then followed Sandy inside.
Marcie finally got out of her car, her gaze still glued to her cell phone.
"Did he text you?" I asked.
She looked up. "What? Oh. Oh, no. It's — it's something else."
We walked inside the welcome center, a large room that looked as if somebody's great-grandmother had decorated it. It was filled with statues, paintings, and if-you-weigh-more-than-eighty-pounds-don't-sit-here furniture.
My Sea Vixen beach bag would have definitely brightened up the place.
Millicent held open a door on our right and said, "Your lounge."
We filed inside. The dimly lit room was cool and quiet. Accent lighting beamed down on black-and-white photos mounted on the walls. Several seating groups were scattered around. A guy in a burgundy vest and tie stood behind a bar, and a cart filled with food was nearby.
A man and woman had claimed the comfy chairs closest to the bar. They were gray-haired, a little thick around the middle. Definitely not celebrities. More like a couple whose kids had treated them to the trip of a lifetime for their wedding anniversary.
Marcie, Sandy, Bella, and I sat down, and the bartender was on us immediately. He rolled the food cart over and took our drink orders.
"That's him," Marcie said, nodding toward one of the photos on the wall. "That's Sidney Rowan. I saw his picture on the Internet. He bought the mansion and the island back in the day, and later it was turned into a hotel and resort."
In the photo, which from the depicted clothing, hair, and makeup looked like it had been taken a few decades ago, Sidney Rowan had on a tuxedo and stood between two young women decked out in evening attire. He was tall, thin, and handsome in an old-school way, and kind of looked like that guy who danced all the time in those black-and-white movies.
"Yes, that's right," Millicent said, suddenly popping up in front of us. "Mr. Rowan amassed an empire that reached every corner of the globe, then purchased his home on the island for occasions when he needed to get away from it all."
The bartender served our drinks, and we loaded our plates with delicacies from the buffet cart.
"Looks like he knew all the big stars back then," Sandy said, pointing to the photographs.
"That's Elizabeth Taylor," Bella said. "How old is that guy?"
"He's a recluse," said the woman seated near the bar. "He hasn't been seen in decades. Nobody knows if he's even alive now."
Millicent smiled her I'm-ignoring-that-comment smile and said, "The main structure was built in the thirties. After Mr. Rowan purchased it in the sixties, additions were made to accommodate his growing family, and guest bungalows were built for his many friends and business associates. Receiving an invitation to the island was highly prized."
Millicent's comments started to sound like a history lesson. I drifted off.
That happens a lot.
I got yanked back into reality when Marcie nudged me with her elbow.
"It's been all over the Internet," she whispered.
Something was all over the Internet?
"They're trying to keep it quiet," she said, "but bloggers and celebrity sites are making a big deal out of it."
I've been kind of out of the loop for a while.
"It's nothing," Millicent said. She was definitely in backpedal mode. "Speculation and conjecture, unfortunately, broadcast by people who have no actual knowledge of the event or the facts."
"That girl might be dead," insisted the woman near the bar. "Nobody just disappears — not off of an island. The whole thing is suspicious and very mysterious. She might even have been murdered."
"Was she a celebrity?" Sandy asked.
"Murdered?" Bella demanded. "A girl on that island was murdered?"
"Thank goodness it wasn't Jennifer Aniston," Sandy said. "I love Jennifer Aniston."
"She was an employee," Millicent said, as if that somehow made her possible death okay. "And nothing definite has been determined. She's missing. That's all. There's no reason to suspect foul play."
"The police were called in. The island was searched. They can't find her," the woman declared.
"There's no reason to worry," Millicent insisted. "This happened only yesterday."
"Yesterday?" Bella echoed. She waved to the bartender. "Bring me a bourbon on the rocks — make it a double."
"Does JLo know about this?" Sandy asked. "I read in People that she comes to the resort a lot."
"There's absolutely nothing to be alarmed about," Millicent said.
"Nothing to be alarmed about?" the woman exclaimed. "Somebody may have died!"
"Enough!" Her husband pushed to his feet. "It's nothing but gossip. I'm not listening to another word of this."
"But, Harvey —"
"Get our limo," he barked at Millicent. "Come along, Geraldine. We're going to the island, and I don't want to hear any more of this nonsense."
Millicent scurried to a door at the rear of the room and flung it open. Sunlight poured inside.
"You ladies can remain here as long as you'd like," she said. "Your limo will take you to the helicopter at your convenience."
The couple disappeared out the door. Millicent followed.
"Is that true?" Bella asked. "Did somebody really go missing, maybe get murdered out there?"
"Nobody knows for sure," Marcie said. "Right now it's just a lot of speculation."
"And it wasn't a celebrity," Sandy added. "Wow, I wonder if that old guy who owns the resort knows about this? I mean, if he's not dead, too."
I kept up on celebrity news, and nearly everybody on the planet knew there had been all kinds of rumors for years about Sidney Rowan. He'd been labeled an eccentric recluse who wielded power over his global, multibillion-dollar empire from a chalet in Switzerland, a Buddhist temple in Nepal, a penthouse in Las Vegas — all sorts of places. There had been reported sightings of him in Paris, Belize, Moscow, most everywhere. But none of them had been confirmed by a legitimate news source — nor had anyone proved whether the old geezer was really alive or dead.
"I don't like hearing about dead people when I'm on vacay. Gives me the heebie-jeebies," Bella said. "Plus, I'm not loving that whole stuck-on-an- island thing, especially with all those bushes and trees and snakes and big bugs, and who knows what else."
"Are you sure you want to go to the resort?" I asked.
Bella stewed for a minute, then stood up.
"Yeah, I'll go," she said. "But if we get captured by some psycho jungle tribe like you see in the movies and they demand a virgin sacrifice, we're in big trouble."
Millicent came into the lounge, and I told her we were ready to leave. She darted outside again.
"Hang on a second," I said as we headed for the door. "Remember our pact?"
The four of us formed a circle, and I could see that we were all thinking over the decision we'd made when we undertook this trip.
Things hadn't been great for any of us, dating wise. Marcie had a first date with a guy who seemed great but hadn't bothered to tweet, text, call, e-mail, or Facebook her since that night. Sandy's tattoo artist boyfriend had left on sabbatical without her. Bella wasn't all that anxious to get involved with a man, fearing he'd distract her from saving for beauty school. I, of course, had just broken up with my official boyfriend, Ty.
"No men, and no men-talk," I said. "No complaining, no whining, no moaning about the men in our lives. This is a girl trip. We're going to relax, have fun, enjoy ourselves, and not waste our emotion, time, and effort on them. Agreed?"
"You bet," Marcie said.
"Sounds good to me," Sandy said.
"I got no problem with it," Bella said. "But I brought my lucky panties, just in case."
Bella and Sandy headed out the door, but Marcie stayed put.
"Have you seen the latest news?" she asked.
I got a weird feeling.
"It's all over the Internet," she repeated.
My weird feeling got weirder.
"That girl who's gone missing at the resort?" Marcie gestured to her phone. "They found her driver's license and cell phone at the top of the cliffs on the back side of the island. Bloggers are speculating that she either jumped — or was pushed. She really might have been murdered."
Oh, crap.CHAPTER 2
"So who is she?" I asked.
"Her name is Jaslyn Gordon," Marcie said. "According to the news reports, she's a maid at the hotel."
We'd just completed our surprisingly smooth helicopter flight to the island and were now riding in the air-conditioned comfort of a tram — sort of like the ones in Jurassic Park, except there were no dinosaurs — traveling along a narrow, paved road that wound through what the resort's Web site had termed "lush foliage."
I'm still thinking Jurassic Park — or maybe Skull Island.
Marcie handed me her cell phone. "That's her."
I looked at the photo posted online with the news story about how Jaslyn Gordon had disappeared from the Rowan Resort.
"She doesn't look like a maid, does she?" Marcie said. "More like a beauty pageant contestant than a —"
"No beauty pageant talk," I said.
My mom was a former pageant queen. Actually, she thought she was still a pageant queen. She and my dad lived in the house I'd grown up in with my brother and sister, a small mansion in La Cañada Flintridge that overlooked the L.A. basin. The house had been left to Mom — along with a trust fund — by her grandmother, allowing Mom to take what she saw as her rightful place among the wealthy and privileged of Los Angeles, which was all well and good — unless you're her daughter and can't quite live up to her look-at-me-I'm-a-beauty-queen expectations.
But I'm not thinking about that now. I'm on vacation.
Jaslyn Gordon looked more like someone who'd be a guest at the resort rather than an employee. She had long, pale blond hair and huge blue eyes, and was exceptionally attractive — movie star attractive. According to the news story, she was a twenty-one-year-old college student working at the resort during semester breaks.
Excerpted from Beach Bags and Burglaries by DOROTHY HOWELL. Copyright © 2014 Dorothy Howell. Excerpted by permission of KENSINGTON PUBLISHING CORP..
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
Title: Beach Bags and Burglaries - Holly Randolph Mystery 9 Author: Dorothy Howell Published: 7-29-14 Publisher: Kensington Books Pages: 304 Genre: Mystery, Thrillers & Suspense Sub Genre: Cozy Mystery, Amateur Detectives, Women Sleuths ISBN: 9780758294944 ASIN: B013ZNGZ98 Reviewer: DelAnne Reviewed For: NetGalley . Haley Randolph had won an all expenses paid cruise package that was later changed to a weekend at the exclusive island getaway spot, The Rowan Resort, for herself and three of her friends, Bella, Sandy and Marcie. The ladies quickly pack their bags for a male free weekend. Haley who likes to be on top of all fashion trends is hot on the trail of the newest vacation accessory - The Vixen, a designer beach bag. Even as it continues to elude her she learns of a rash of thefts and of a maid, Jaslyn, that is missing, Haley later comes across her body while walking on the beach. Most believe it had to have been an accident, but Haley isn't buying it. Then there is the FBI agent, Luke Warner, who claims he is only there to attend a wedding. Haley does not believe him. Haley begins her own investigation, but will the killer end her prize girls only weekend early? This cozy mystery is filled with humor and a fast paced thrilling action that keeps you glued to the story. Ms. Howell has given us a wonderful series revolving around a heroine with a quirky and bit sassy personality who obsessed with anything fashion. Her friends and wide circle of acquaintances provide her with help whether she is hunting fashion or on the trail of different mysteries that Haley cannot seem to avoid. I was introduced to this series through NetGalley Beach Bags and Burglaries and enjoyed it so much I am slowly purchasing the others in the series from the beginning. Come and meet Haley and her friends and you will be hooked too!
Great Mystery!! This is a great book! It is book 8 in the Haley Randolph series, but it can be read as a standalone. This is the first book that I have read in this series, and I loved it! I have just added the rest of the book to my wish list. Haley won an all expense paid trip to a posh island that is known to have famous actors as guests. She takes her girl friends with her to relax and enjoy an all girls vacation. Haley has been dreaming of getting a rare Sea Vixen beach bag, so when she sees someone carrying one at the resort she follows her to see where she can get one. While she is following the lady she ends up finding the missing maid dead. Now Haley is on a mission to find the killer, and track down a Sea Vixen beach bag for herself. This book has it all, humor, mystery and a little romance. I can’t wait to read more books by this author!! A Review copy was provided to me in exchange for a fair and honest review. The free book held no determination on my personal review.
On the first day of an all expense paid vacation to an exclusive resort island, Haley finds a dead body. What else could go awry? A fast paced, action packed, winding narrative artfully leads readers and characters through multiple mysteries while adding a touch of humor and romance. Characters are witty, varied, interesting, and curious. Overall, a fun read.
Beach Bags and Burglaries by Dorothy Howell Although this book is a series book this is the first I've read of the author. Didn't feel so much in the dark but there are a lot of characters from past cases that have popped up as the investigations go on. Four women take a vacation at a resort and find not only one hostess has been murdered but one of their friends is getting married -they were not invited. But now that the family's relatives won't come to the resort island the friends are now the brides best friends. Also one of the girls lucky underwear is stolen. Lots of drama from a lot of different people made this a funny book for me to read while they go through the clues. Loves the Sea Vixen bag although I'm not a woman who cares what bag I carry I just found it amazing what some will do for a special bag. Good book and I am pretty sure I will read the others in the series and by this author as she covers all bases. I received this book from The Kennsington Books in exchange for my honest review
3 STARS This is a fun cozy mystery. This is the first Haley Randolph book that I have read. Haley is obsessed with getting the hottest beach bag. It is a clean read. It was pretty good on who was doing what crime. Haley loves fashion. Her boyfriend had broken up with her. So she had won a vacation at resort and brought her 3 good girlfriends. They are not going to talk about guys. She keeps a lot of secrets from her friends. Every time she turned around she was talking to different guy she was attracted to. Haley on first day finds the missing Jaslyn body. The two detectives think that she might know more about them. Haley is determined to find out who the murder is. The setting for this book is a island off from California. The only way to get onto the island is from the private helicopter or the supply boat. So the murder is still on the island. Their is a lot of mentioning history with different men in her life that is a long story so feel a little bit of lost because never read the seven other books. It seems Haley is a little shallow the way she says one thing and does another. She keeps mentioning her want for the hottest bag, or her new clothes she put on credit cards. The way she talks about different guys in her life. How she tries to walk away from people calling her name like she does at work all the time. It is meant to be a light hearted mystery. I was given this ebook to read by Harlequin and Kensington. I agreed to give honest review of Beach Bags and Burglaries.
This is a fun novel that follows Haley as she takes the much anticipated vacation that she won in the Holt's Department Store contest. Her prize was switched to an exclusive island getaway with her three BFFs. This island is so exclusive that guests can only reach it via helicopter. Haley embarks on the vacation with thoughts of celebrity sightings on her mind. Instead, soon after landing, she learns of a missing housekeeper. Of course, this leads our Haley into the midst of an investigation. All this, while she is on a quest to obtain the latest bag, called the Sea Vixen. This is a cozy mystery and is fun to read. I would recommend it to fans of chick lit/cozy mysteries. I'm already looking forward to the next book. Thank you to Netgalley for providing a complementary ARC in exchange for an honest review.
Another amazing book from Dorothy Howell. This cozy mystery series is so fun and the perfect series for those that love chick lit. Again, Haley is on the prowl for an awesome bag (the Sea Vixen beach bag), but another dead body had popped up. Can't the girl ever catch a break? She's on vacation for crying out loud! Seriously though, this is a great book and a must for those that love a fun cozy mystery
“Vacation Snoozes, Bamboozles, a Murder and a Wedding!? Twenty-four year-old Haley Randolph, part-time sales clerk at “Holt’s Department Store” as well as an Event Planner at “L.A. Affairs” is super excited. She won a posh cruise through a contest held by Holt’s—but the prize has now been mysteriously upgraded to a week’s vacation at the celebrity-renown “Rowan Resort”. Accompanied by her BFFs Marcie, Sandy and Bella, Haley is off for a week of sun, fun and new adventures. They had all agreed, this was to be a BFF trip—no mention of past or present boyfriends would be allowed. It was a good idea too—since Haley had broken up with her boyfriend, Holt’s Dept. Store magnate, Ty Cameron. The Rowan Resort has catered to A-list celebrities, royalties and millionaires with their luxurious accommodations and the highest standards in privacy, security, and seclusion. Recluse (and perhaps, as many may think) the late Sidney Rowan bought the rambling mansion and island decades ago with the plans to create a posh hotel and resort. One extraordinary feature—the only way to get onto or off the island is by helicopter, which makes monitoring guests much easier. The happy threesome had hardly landed on the heliport when word of a missing employee cropped up on the horizon. Twenty-one yr. old maid, Jaslyn Gordon has been discovered missing. No one had seen her since she finished her shift the night before—however, her cell phone and driver’s license were located on some cliffs overlooking a rough section of beachfront. She was a hard worker and a devoted employee, but supposedly upset about something. In despair, did she jump off the cliffs? As per normal for the aficionado of all things purse-related, Haley was on a quest for the latest item in beach accessories, a gorgeous, polka-dot beach tote named “The Sea Vixen”. It was while she was tailing someone who was displaying one, and going off the beaten path usually taken by guests, that she happened to spot a swatch of fabric in jungle-type vegetation and, sadly, the lifeless body of Jaslyn Gordon. Immediately, she became a person of interest—not only by House Detectives Vance and Pierce, but, also, the Chief of Security, Walt Pemberton. Haley was determined to clear her name, but also try to find out who could have done the dastardly deed. Could it have been Jaslyn’s hot-headed boyfriend Gabe Braxton? What part could the mysterious and suave Sebastian Lane have played in all of this? In the midst of all of the sleuthing, everyone’s most un-favorite person, a privileged soul named Yasmin shows up at the same resort! And she’s getting married!! Yasmin wails that many of her guests are not attending, including her maid of honor, due to the murder on the island. Who gets roped into standing up for the frantic bride? None other than the extremely unhappy Haley! Personalities that Haley knows start appearing on the island and they are not all here for the wedding—is something else going on besides Jaslyn’s demise? Well, someone did steal Bella’s “Lucky Panties”, but whatever could that have to do with anything? Why would boyishly handsome FBI agent, Luke Warner be on the island? What about “Nose in his laptop”, L.A. Daily Courier reporter, Ben Oliver? Was he hot on a story that they knew nothing about? Two possible heart-throbs of Haley’s also surface—hunky P.I. Jack Bishop and now, single again, Detective Sluman—Are they on the island because they are worried about Haley, or could it be some other reason? Perhaps, it may have something to do with the treasured “Heart of Amour” pendant? Will Haley ever get her hands on a “Sea Vixen”? The only way you’re going to unravel this tight braid of mysteries is to put this fast, easy read on your TBR list. You don’t need to start at the beginning of the “Haley Randolph mysteries” to get introduced to Author Howell’s quirky characters, but I’m betting you’ll want to check out the other 6 adventures (“Handbags and Homicide”, “Clutches and Curses”, Tote Bags and Toe Tags”, etc.) as well as this one. If you don’t, we’ll just have to give you the serious “Triple Stink-eye”—you’ll understand when you read this clever cozy. Nancy Narma