As makeover madness sweeps the nation's capital, reporter Lacey Smithsonian interviews TV show makeover success story Amanda Manville. But with Amanda's beauty comes a beast in the form of a stalker with vicious intentions—and Lacey may be the only one who can stop him.
About the Author
Ellen Byerrum is a journalist in Washington, D.C., and a produced and published playwright. She holds a Virginia private investigator’s registration. A Colorado native, she lives in Virginia with her husband. Visit her Web site at www.ellenbyerrum.com.
Read an Excerpt
Lacey Smithsonian wasn’t sure what it meant. Her thoughts weremomentarily blocked by soul-shattering thunder. And the lightning boltthat struck the neon Krispy Kreme doughnut sign had also knocked herflat on her butt. From the rain-soaked ground, she watched in horror asthe steel-girded doughnut monolith wavered to and fro before crashingdown on Harlan Wiedemeyer’s brand new Volvo. The Volvo she had steppedout of less than one minute ago.
I ask for a sign and what do I get? A giant neon sign of doom.
Trujillo’s words came back to her: “Watch out. Bad things happenwhenyou hang out with that guy.”
The “guy” in question was Harlan Wiedemeyer himself, who hadinsistedon giving Lacey a ride home from her office to Old Town Alexandria, andthen abruptly detoured on a whim to the Krispy Kreme doughnut capitalof Northern Virginia.
Wiedemeyer? A jinx? But surely he couldn’t be blamed for the stormthatbrought the lightning that struck the sign that stood on Route 1 thatfell on top of the car that Harlan drove? Could he? she wondered. Shewiped the dripping curtain of hair out of her face, struggled to herfeet, and turned her attention to Wiedemeyer, just emerging from anoily mud puddle.
The little man shook his fist at the sky and shouted, “Missed me!”Histhinning brown hair stuck to his head, perspiration mixing with theraindrops. His round belly gave evidence of his love of doughnuts. Somethirty-odd calorie-packed years of doughnuts, Lacey guessed. He lookedas if misery hugged his shoulders like a well-worn sweater. He turnedto Lacey. Out of his thunderstruck agony, Lacey glimpsed a sliver oftriumph.
“Missed me again! Hey, Smithsonian! Did you see that?” A maniacalgrinlit his face in the next flash of lightning. “Why, that sign would havetaken our heads clean off if we’d been one minute later! How many poorbastards, do you suppose, die just like that? It’s a sign. That’s whatit is. We’re the lucky bastards today! Let’s go get some doughnuts.”
Lacey could see shapes swarming behind the shop’s steamy windows,facespressed against the glass, staring in shock at their beloved HOTDOUGHNUTS NOW sign, which was now balanced upside down on the crunchedroof of the Volvo. The lightning strike had darkened all the lights inthe parking lot, but had somehow missed the shop itself. It was stillbright and cheery. Lacey shook the excess water off her trench coat. Itdidn’t help. She was sore and soaked to the skin. But hot coffee and ahot glazed puff of calorie heaven were calling to her. She thought shehad never needed a doughnut more in her entire life.
“You know, Wiedemeyer, most people would take this as a sign to stopeating doughnuts,” Lacey said.
“Stop eating doughnuts? Why, that would just be crazy.” He held thedoor for her. A wave of doughnut aroma washed over them.
Harlan Wiedemeyer was a new Eye Street Observer reporter who coveredwhat Lacey’s newsroom called the “death-and-dismemberment” beat. Herelished telling the world every day how some “poor bastard” died in afreak accident or grotesque workplace disaster. Untold poor bastardsdrowned in vats of chocolate, were ground up in the gears of heavymachinery, were turned into sausage. So when he escaped the blind wrathof the wayward Krispy Kreme doughnut sign, Harlan Wiedemeyer knew onething: He was one hell of a lucky bastard.
Lacey Smithsonian, on the other hand, didn’t feel quite so graced.TonyTrujillo, her buddy on the cops beat, had warned her not to ride homewith Wiedemeyer because he was a Jonas, a jinx, a bringer of bad luck,and if she accepted his offer, woe betide her. She told Trujillo it wasa malicious lie, a superstition, a remnant of Dark Ages thinking. Andnot an hour later she had barely escaped the Krispy Kreme doughnut signof doom. Wiedemeyer strikes again, people would say.
“Pretty damn lucky, huh?” Wiedemeyer elbowed her in the side as thecrowd milled around them.
“I’d hold your horses, if I were you, Harlan.” Lacey was wonderinghowshe would get home. If Wiedemeyer hadn’t insisted on being chivalrous,she would have taken the Metro and been home already, warm and dry anddoughnut-free. “I’m not feeling that fortunate right now.”
“Yeah, damned lucky, I’d say. Lucky we weren’t inside my car. Luckyweweren’t squashed like bugs, lucky to be alive,” he said with relish.“We should get a couple of dozen doughnuts just to celebrate.” Herubbed his hands in anticipation.
“We could have been killed.” Thank you very much, she addedsilently,you Jonah, you.
“We escape death on a daily basis, Smithsonian. A daily basis, ifnotan hourly one.” His weird mix of fatalism and optimism grated on herlast nerve. “Some other poor bastard’s number was up today.”
She felt a chill that had nothing to do with the storm. Up untilnow,the October weather had been deliciously warm, but the day had turnedcold in a matter of hours. She gave up trying to talk to Wiedemeyer andordered that cup of coffee and a doughnut, breaking her vow to eathealthier. “Nothing like a little caffeine and sugar to steady yournerves,” she said. The sarcasm didn’t faze him.
“Good idea, and I’ll need a tow truck. You got a cell phone? Mine’sinthe car. Of course, it may be a while before they lift that sign off myVolvo. Every safety feature known to Swedish science, and look at it.It’s totaled for sure. Poor bastard. Ready to be cubed.” He observedthe damage, clicking his tongue on his teeth before calling hisinsurance adjuster, with whom he was on a first-name basis. Laceyfigured they had a long history.
A Fox Television network van slammed on its brakes outside. Abroadcastreporter ran out of the van and through the rain into the Krispy Kremestore, demanding to know whose car lay smashed beneath the doughnutsign. “We were just cruising back from a story to get some hotdoughnuts! Pretty lucky, huh?”
“We’re all pretty damn lucky tonight,” Lacey murmured. Shevisualized aheadline: “Fashion Reporter’s Brush with Death—and Doughnuts!” Shetried to clean away a streak of mud from her raincoat with a napkin,but succeeded only in adding a streak of doughnut glaze.
A small Asian woman at the counter waved her hand for the Foxnewsmanlike the star pupil. “I saw it. I saw everything. You put me ontelevision?”
The reporter trundled Wiedemeyer and the counter lady outside for alive news bulletin, while Lacey called for a taxi on her cell phone.The dispatcher told her to sit tight, that it would take a whilebecause of the storm. As she hung up, it jingled. That had better notbe Yellow Cab telling me I’m out of luck, she thought.
“I don’t care!” she snapped without even checking the number on herphone’s display. “I still need a taxi!”
“Smithsonian? Are you okay? You took a ride from that lunatic! Itoldyou not to do it, Lacey. Now bad luck is going to follow you like aboomerang until you shake him off.”
“And a good evening to you, too, Trujillo.”
“I guess you’re still alive, in spite of the Wiedemeyer Effect. Soyouweren’t in the car when it happened?”
“How do you know what happened?” Lacey demanded.
“It’s on the news right now. How does Fox do that?” She heard Tonysnort into his phone. “It’s always something with that guy. A lightningbolt heads straight for Wiedemeyer, misses him, but gets everythingaround him. Why did he want to take you home anyway?”
“Maybe he’s a nice guy,” she said, but she knew that wasn’t theanswer.
“Yeah, sure. The real reason.”
“He was pumping me for information about Felicity.” She grimaced toherself at the very thought of Felicity Pickles, The Eye’s food editorand part-time copy editor. Lacey’s least favorite person in thenewsroom had just returned to work after a short leave of absence,following the well-publicized demise of her minivan in an explosionoutside The Eye Street Observer—an explosion meant for Smithsonian.Everyone had known Felicity was back by the aroma of freshly bakedbrownies and the crowd of hungry reporters swarming around her desk.Felicity Pickles used food as a weapon and a lure, but her ultimategoal, Lacey was certain, was to fatten up everyone in the newsroomuntil they all looked like Felicity Pickles. With her long, straightauburn hair, round china-blue eyes, and creamy complexion, Felicity hada strange doll-like look. A chubby child’s doll with a hidden evilside, like something out of a bad horror movie.
“No kidding? Felicity?” Lacey could almost hear the gears turn inTrujillo’s head. “I remember Wiedemeyer was starting to hang around herjust around the time her van blew up.”
“You’re blaming Harlan for the minivan explosion?” That cheered herup,since she’d blamed herself for that.
“Well, no, everyone still blames you, Lacey. But I put my money ontheWiedemeyer Effect as a contributing factor. Wait till everyone hearshow he got Krispy Kremed!”
Table of Contents
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
Ellen Byerrum pulls another superlative Crime of Fashion out of her vintage cloche, simultaneously sticking a hatpin in America's spinning-out-of-control passion for makeovers. Now, Byerrum spins a mystery out of (very luxurious) whole cloth with the best of them, featuring characters we come to know and love a little bit more each time (Lacey Smithsonian, her boss Mac, sometime paramour Vic, best friend Brooke) and even some we've come to know and not love (evildoer-with-sugar-and-chocolate, food editor Felicity). But her talent for creating memorable one-off and secondary characters is positively Dickensian. This time, we meet devil's spawn dress designer Amanda Manville, who won a makeover contest that turned her as ugly on the inside as she became beautiful on the outside Tate Penfield, Amanda's secretive ex-fiance jinxman Harlan Wiedermyer (read the first couple of paragraphs of the book and laugh out loud) my favorite new characters, Lacey's mom Rose and her former cheerleader sister Cherise and on down to a waitress in a donut shop spotting her potential 15 minutes of fame. All these wonderful characters combine with Byerrum's gift for clever plotting and snappy dialogue to fashion a perfectly entertaining, keep-em-guessing-til-the-end whodunit. I look forward to each installment in Ellen Byerrum's Crimes of Fashion series. Be sure to read the first two Lacey Smithsonian novels, DESIGNER KNOCKOFF and KILLER HAIR, if HOSTILE MAKEOVER is your first. Just by coincidence, Bob Woodward's book on Deep Throat happened to be the book I read right before this new book of Ellen's. This DC expatriate will take Lacey Smithsonian's wacky Washington world any day of the week over the real Washington, DC, of Watergate and other, more recent, evildoings.
This was pretty good, but I think the second one was better. I kind of figured out who the murderer was like half way in. It was still a good light easy read.