Killer Knots (Bad Hair Day Series #9)

Killer Knots (Bad Hair Day Series #9)

by Nancy J. Cohen

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Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780758212276
Publisher: Kensington
Publication date: 11/01/2008
Series: Bad Hair Day Series , #9
Edition description: Reprint
Pages: 320
Product dimensions: 4.10(w) x 6.70(h) x 0.90(d)

About the Author

NANCY J. COHEN is the author of eight previous Bad Hair Day mysteries: Permed to Death, Hair Raiser, Murder by Manicure, Body Wave, Highlights to Heaven, Died Blonde, Dead Roots, and Perish by Pedicure. The mother of two grown children, she resides in Florida with her husband and their poodle, who bears a strong resemblance to Marla's dog, Spooks.

Read an Excerpt

Killer Knots

A Bad Hair Day Mystery

By Nancy J. Cohen


Copyright © 2007 Nancy J. Cohen
All rights reserved.
ISBN: 978-1-4976-2618-8


Are you sure I won't get seasick? Marla Shore asked her fiancé as they approached the Port of Miami via a bridge over the Intracoastal. Squinting at the white ships lining the pier like ducks on parade, she felt a twinge of queasiness in her stomach. Hopefully, her first Caribbean cruise wouldn't be her last.

"These big ships have stabilizers," Dalton Vail replied, focused on his driving. "It'll probably be so smooth you won't even notice we're on the water."

The handsome detective spared her a glance. He wouldn't admit to being excited, but she saw the spark in his gray eyes. She looked forward to sharing this experience with him and his fourteen-year-old daughter.

From the backseat, Brianna tapped Marla on the shoulder. "Look, there's the Tropical Sun! Can you see it?" The teen had talked about nothing but their trip for the past few weeks.

"It has their signature lounge on top," Marla pointed out, admiring the massive vessel's sleek lines. Her attention shifted. "Do you have enough cash for parking?" she asked Dalton as he followed signs to the garage. "It's twelve dollars a day."

"They take credit cards. Why don't you and Brie get off here with the luggage? The cruise terminal is straight ahead. I'll meet you at the entrance." After he pulled up to the curb, he helped them unload before jumping back behind the wheel and zooming away.

Marla grimaced as a stiff sea breeze blew wisps of her carefully coiffed hair about her face. Her hairstylist skills would come in handy on this voyage. Rummaging in her purse, she withdrew a few bills for the porter, who checked their bags.

"Where do we go now?" Brianna said, confusion muddling her brown eyes. She wore her toffee hair in a ponytail along with the standard teenage garb of jeans and a camisole top.

"Let's wait for your father."

Charter buses pulled up to the curb along with yellow taxicabs and a shiny metal Sysco supply truck. Cops wearing neon green vests directed the traffic that added to the noise level. Seagulls squawked. Engines idled. Porters shouted. Airplanes roaring overhead made Marla's blood pound in her ears.

Who said cruises were restful vacations? Mingling with three thousand other passengers doesn't fit my dream of a tropical getaway.

Diesel fumes warmed by the summer sun mixed with the aroma of hot dogs from a nearby vendor. A passenger next to her crunched on a potato chip, his ample belly filling his shorts and flowered shirt.

Oh joy. Eleven days to gain weight at endless buffets. It's a good thing my new salon will offer spa services in addition to the usual hair treatments. I'll be their first customer.

Marla knew Dalton was looking forward to the meals. He'd pored over the dining-room pictures in the brochure. Same for Brianna, whose growing stage made her continually hungry. Marla was more interested in checking out the shops and lounging by the pool. Forget the onboard salon. She'd take a peek, but that was one place she wanted to avoid on her vacation.

As Vail hustled across the street, she watched him with pride. His broad shoulders filled the Tommy Bahama black shirt she'd given him for Father's Day. Even with the silver peppering his ebony hair, his distinguished appearance made female heads turn in appreciation. She hoped this cruise would bring them closer together as a family.

"Let's go inside," he said, taking charge.

At the door, a uniformed official checked their passports and ushered them into the terminal. They entered the line for U.S. citizens and shuffled along like sheep in a herd until they reached the counter. Vail collected their papers and submitted their passports, cruise tickets, and credit cards for their on-board credit accounts.

"How does my hair look?" Marla asked before she grinned in front of a mini camera that snapped her photo. Just getting to the ship was an ordeal. She couldn't wait to get settled.

In the next room, another attendant handed them each a room-key card, which they signed on the back. Brianna's eyes bulged when she realized she'd be able to charge her own purchases.

"All right! I hope I meet kids my age to hang out with on the ship." Brianna stuffed the card into her Nine West purse.

"You will, honey," Marla said, giving her an indulgent smile. "They have an excellent teen program. You'll have your own activities and even your own newsletter every day."

"Over here," Vail said, directing them to the security detail. Like at the airport, they had to pass their carry-on bags through an X-ray machine while they walked through the gates. After they cleared, a guard waved them toward an up escalator. A long metal walkway open to the breeze awaited them at the top. Shaded by a blue awning, it led to the gangway onto the ship itself. But first they had to get past the pair of photographers who captured a quick picture of them in front of a Tropical Sun welcome aboard poster.

"I wonder how much that photo will cost," Marla remarked. She shivered with excitement as they crossed a plank over a short expanse of water. Once on the ship, they had to present their key cards. A crew member swept each card through a machine that brought up their photo ID. Marla noticed a dispenser of liquid hand sanitizer just beyond. Great; they'd need it to prevent norovirus.

"At last," she said, once they were free to find their room. She glanced at the bank of elevators, the wide carpeted stairway, and two long corridors flanking either side of the ship. "Where is our cabin, port or starboard?" she asked Vail, relying on his sense of direction.

"We're starboard on deck eight," he replied. "That's on the right side of the ship facing forward. I usually remember because port has four letters same as left." He nodded at the crowd waiting in front of the elevators. "It'll be a few minutes before the mob clears."

"We can take the stairs." Wondering why he peered around as though expecting someone, Marla put her foot forward just as she spotted an auburn-haired woman waving at them. She'd come off the down elevator, accompanied by a tall man with receding hair, eyeglasses, and a broad grin.

"Dalton! Brianna!" The lady descended upon them, spreading her arms wide.

"Grandma," Brie responded, rushing into the older woman's embrace while Marla stared.

Grandma? Don't tell me Dalton s parents are here. Her vision wavered. She felt as though the floor had opened beneath her, and she'd dropped into Wonderland. Why did no one else act surprised? Dumbfounded, she stood there like a statue.

"You think we'd pay for your cruise and not come along for the ride?" Brianna's grandmother said. "Besides, we wanted to meet Marla . At the rate your father is dragging his feet regarding a wedding date, this may be our only chance."

She grasped Marla's stiff hand. "We're delighted to meet you. I'm Kate, and this is John. Or call us Mom and Dad."

Vail hugged his father. "Dad, I figured you'd be looking for us down here."

Marla stood back, struggling to comprehend. Dalton had known his folks would be on the cruise, and he hadn't said a word? True, Kate and John had treated them to the vacation. Presumably the elder couple meant to smooth things over after Dalton's former in-laws created a strain between them. But if Dalton's folks were anything like Pam's parents, she'd plotz!

Not to worry. Kate and John flew in from Maine. They'll have plenty to do on the cruise.

And she really should forgive Justine and Larry, who still mourned Pam's death. It wasn't easy for them to accept Marla as a potential stepmother for their granddaughter.

Kate linked her arm with Marla's. "You're prettier in person than in your picture," Kate said with a warm smile. "I can't wait to get to know you, but I'm sure you and Dalton would like to unpack. We'll take Brie to our cabin. Her suitcase is already there."

Vail frowned. "Huh? Why would it have been sent to your stateroom?"

"I guess you didn't notice that her room number is different from yours. She's staying with us so you and Marla can have some privacy. I hope that's okay with you, sweetheart."

Brianna's expression took on a devilish gleam. "Sure, I have my own key anyway. As long as you agree that I don't have a curfew." She cast her father a smug grin.

"Now just a minute," he began.

Vail's dad made a dismissive gesture. "Let it go, son. Brie can't get lost on the ship, and she'll have a better time if she hooks up with some young people." He exchanged a knowing look with Marla that made her like him already.

"We'll catch up to you guys later," Kate told Marla, then squeezed her elbow.

Kate was certainly a touchy-feely person, Marla thought, appreciating how she appeared totally different from Justine, Pam's mother. It might not be so bad having her future in-laws on board after all. Wanting to accommodate Brianna, she turned her attention to the teen.

"Are you certain you're all right with this, honey? You know you're welcome to stay with us. We want to spend time with you, and--"

"She'll be fine." Kate wrapped an arm around the girl's shoulder. "Take your time exploring the ship. We sail at five; then we have the lifeboat drill before dinner. We'll meet up with you in the dining room."

After trudging up the stairs, Marla and Vail sought their cabin. Feeling like a conditioned laboratory rat, she followed the coral carpet down a brightly lit corridor that seemed to stretch to infinity. Brass plates displayed room numbers, and when they reached theirs, Marla noticed an envelope tucked into a seashell decoration by the door.

"Look at this," she said, showing Dalton the scrawl that addressed the message to Martha Shore. "Someone must've spelled my name wrong." After sticking it inside her purse, she unlocked the door to their cabin. "Yikes, my closet at home is bigger than this place!" Plopping her bags on the floor, she surveyed their home for the next week. There was barely enough space for their suitcases, let alone her and Dalton.

A queen-sized bed stood against the opposite wall, where a wide picture window showed a view of the pier. Other furnishings included a small nightstand, a desk that served as a dresser with drawers, a desk chair, and a small love seat facing a television mounted on a ledge.

She noticed Dalton eyeing the TV and said, "If I'm going to lose you to sports games, you can find me on the pool deck." Upon peering in the bathroom, she added, "Hey, look in here. If you turn around when you brush your teeth, you'll be taking a shower."

Vail excused himself to use the facilities while she examined a pile of papers on their bed: the Tropical Tattler newsletter, announcements about a preview art auction, gift shop flyers, and spa treatment specials. Always on the lookout for bargains, she stuffed them in her purse to read later and turned to her carry-on bag to remove her cosmetics.

From the bathroom, she heard a thump, followed by an explosive whoosh and a loud curse. The detective emerged looking shaken. "Jeez, if you sit on that thing when you flush, you risk losing some vital body parts. They aren't kidding when they say to close the lid first."

Marla laughed, then put her things down on the bed and walked over to kiss him soundly. "I can see one benefit to this cabin. We'll have to snuggle closer." They spent a few minutes doing just that until a knock sounded outside the door.

"Hello, my name is Jovanny," said their cabin steward, a short young man with a swarthy complexion. "May I assist you with luggage?" Their suitcases had arrived. Marla and Vail stood by while Jovanny dragged the luggage inside. "Your cruise guide will tell you what goes on each day," Jovanny said, with a flashy grin, while Marla strained to understand him. He spoke as though he had a wad of cotton in his mouth. "Today we have lifeboat drill at five-thirty. Life jackets are in closet. Your station is deck seven, C-4. Okay, lady and gentleman? If you need anything else, please call me on telephone."

As soon as he left, she returned to unpacking her bag. A loudspeaker blared, making her jump.

Ding dong, ding dong.

"Attention, all passengers," announced a deep male voice from a console on the desk. "According to SOLAS, International Convention for the Safety of Life at Sea, we are required to hold a lifeboat drill within twenty-four hours of sailing. When you hear seven short blasts and one long blast, this is the signal to proceed to your lifeboat assembly station. There will be no eating or drinking during this exercise. This is a mandatory drill even if you have cruised with us before."

The man's voice droned on, issuing further instructions, but Marla closed him out. She'd opened the envelope addressed to Martha Shore and pulled out a piece of paper inside. Narrowing her eyes, she stared at the typewritten words:

I know what you did and I have what you want.

Her blood chilled. Who would send this weird message?

She'd done a few bad things in her life, but mostly they'd been resolved. No one on board could possibly know about the erotic pictures she'd posed for when she was nineteen. That hadn't been the best moment in her life, but she'd needed the money to pay for an attorney after Tammy had drowned in a backyard pool. As her babysitter, Marla had been held accountable by the toddler's parents. She'd finally put the tragedy to rest, so why would it rear its ugly head now? Nah, this had to be a mistake.

"What's wrong?" Vail asked, giving her a curious glance. He'd started hanging up his suit jackets.

"Look at this note." She thrust it at him.

Scanning the words, he scowled. "Gotta be some sort of joke."

"Or it's been sent to the wrong person." Flushing with guilt, she grabbed the paper and tossed it into a drawer. Nothing would ruin her vacation. "Forget about it," she said. "Let's explore the ship. I'd like to make sure Brie is happy with her arrangements."

Vail opted for a snack, so they headed for the Outrigger Cafe on deck eleven. Unsure of where to go, Marla suggested they follow the trail of people holding drink cups. They found the dining room with several buffet lines, and Vail filled his plate with a juicy hamburger, French fries, pasta salad, and herb-roasted chicken, while Marla allowed herself coffee and fruit.

"How can you eat so much? It's nearly time for dinner," she said, sipping the brew.

"Don't worry, I'll be hungry again," Vail answered, his mouth full. "How's the coffee?"

"Rich and robust, with no bitter aftertaste. I saw a notice alongside the dispenser that says the brand is Hair Raiser. They must have the concession throughout the ship."

His eyebrows lifted. "I hope that isn't a portent since you do hair for a living."

You and me both, pal. This is one week where I want to lie out and catch the sun, not help you catch killers. "Maybe I should serve the stuff in my salon. I'll look it up on the Internet when I get a chance."

After bolstering their energy, they strolled outside to preview the pool, Jacuzzis, and solarium. Then they went indoors to ride the glass elevator down and ended up by Hook's Champagne Bar on deck five. Marla stared at the nine-story central atrium in confusion.

"How did we miss the salon, spa, and fitness center?" she asked. "Weren't they on the same deck as the pool?"

"I don't know. They could be at the other end. We need to look at a diagram." A couple of long blasts on the ship's horn sounded. "Forget it, we're about to cast off. Let's take the elevator back up."

Completely disoriented, Marla pointed to the carpet on their way aloft. "It's a good thing the design tells you what day it is. I could easily lose track of time here."

"I wonder if they change the carpet at midnight."

"You can stay and watch. I'll be too tired tonight."

As soon as she stepped outdoors into the afternoon July sun, she felt the vibration increase and realized the ship had begun moving. Jostling for a position by the rail, she felt a rush of excitement. She watched the pier recede before they entered the outlet leading to open sea.


Excerpted from Killer Knots by Nancy J. Cohen. Copyright © 2007 Nancy J. Cohen. Excerpted by permission of OPEN ROAD INTEGRATED MEDIA.
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.

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Killer Knots 4.5 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 11 reviews.
Guest More than 1 year ago
Marla Shore, owner of the Cut 'N Dye Salon, is off on a cruise with her fiancé Detective Dalton Vail. His teenage daughter and parents are joining them. It's her first meeting of the in-laws. Soon after boarding the cruise ship, a note is found in an envelope addressed to 'Martha' Shore stuck in their cabin door reading 'I know what you did and I have what you want.' Marla figures it was delivered by mistake, or at least she hopes it was and doesn't refer to nudie pictures from her long ago past. Marla and Dalton get seated with tense employees and associates of a Tampa art museum instead of with Dalton's family. An unknown benefactor paid for all of them to attend the cruise and they each received a note similar to the one Marla received. The cruise hosts an art auction including the work of Alden Tusk, an artist who died mysteriously from a fall. Marla decided to investigate. Who is sending the threatening notes? Who is the secret benefactor paying for the museum staff to come on the cruise? Is this the same person? How and why did the artist die? Can she do this and still have a good first visit with Dalton's family? I love this series. Marla and Dalton are such fun characters. They have really grown through this series as well. I like Marla's interactions with his teenage daughter. They are very believable. It's fun seeing them in a different setting this time. I enjoyed the cruise setting for this installment in the series. I can't wait to read the next book! I highly recommend this book and series.
Guest More than 1 year ago
I'm a fan of Nancy Cohen's mysteries. Combined with the fact that Marla Shore is an amateur sleuth, solving a murder mystery, there is humor and real questions on the development of relationships. We've met and experienced Marla's family in previous books, and now it is time to meet Detective Dalton's parents. As Marla balances her nerves with the in-law experience and works to find a murderer, Ms. Cohen sets the reader on-board a cruise ship and allows him/her to travel to warm ports of call. I rather enjoy Marla and her adventures and the tropical setting added to it this time around. Thank you, Ms. Cohen.
Guest More than 1 year ago
Once again our Marla finds herself in the middle of a mystery. This time, it's on the Tropical Sun, sailing on a Caribbean cruise. From the moment Marla and her family walk onboard, you feel like you are cruising along with them. Marla soon finds herself in the middle of a murder. Employees from an art museum, were all given free tickets to cruise to paradise, the victim, was part of the group, and, as you can imagine..Marla is smack in the middle,and off she goes, trying to get to the bottom of it! Between Nancy Cohen's spot on descriptions of the ship, and the islands,you would swear you were on vacation too! I have been a fan of the author, for years, and she has never let me down, Being a cruiser myself, MystI was one happy reader! Get it,or give it as a gift,you will be a happy reader too!
Cherylk on LibraryThing 10 months ago
Marla Shore is ready for some fun, sun and getting to spend quality time with her fiancé, police detective, Dalton Vail and his fourteen years old daughter, Brianna aboard a cruise ship. What Marla didn¿t realize was that Dalton had other ideas about how to spend their quality time together and it involved Marla getting to know her soon to be future in-laws! It seems though that Marla won¿t be spending much time with anyone. She already has a new case just calling her name in the form of a personal note addressed to her¿ok so maybe the first name was made out to Martha and not Marla but still¿Marla can¿t stop herself from getting involved. Marla discovers that art and cruise ships don¿t mix. Marla meets a group of museum employees that were all invited to have fun on the same cruise liner. While at an art auction, an very valuable art pieces shows up, painted by an artist who¿s died under mysterious circumstances. Can Marla solve this case before she is all washed up?Marla is such a fun loving gal. There isn¿t any case too big or too small that Marla can¿t solve and you can guarantee that Marla will look good doing it. If you think Marla¿s one tough cookie when she¿s on the case you should see her take on every woman¿s nightmare¿.the dreaded split ends! I liked this book so much that I read it in one sitting. Killer Knots is the ninth book in this series featuring everyone¿s favorite hairdresser and sleuth, Marla Shore. It can be read as a stand alone book. I hope to see this series go on for a long time. Nancy Cohen is a new favorite author of mine.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
The author must have really been on a cruise this is a good read especially in winter for those with color or h c love the covers! Page counter mom
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
He follows his sister.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
What was once a peaceful being, is now a chaotic demon. Thoughts of loyalty and determination are replaced with thoughts of hatred and misery. Revenge. Fur of fire, pelt of mist. Eyes of loyalty and eyes of betrayal
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Guest More than 1 year ago
This one is not up to pare and Marla just comes off as someone who sticks her nose in when she doesn't need to.
harstan More than 1 year ago
As part of meeting her future in-laws for the first time, hairdresser and part-time detective Marla Shore joins her fiancé police detective Dalton Vail, his parents Kate and John and his teenage daughter on a Caribbean cruise. Not long after they go on board the Tropical Sun, a crew member delivers a message to Marla that is a threat, but is actually addressed to Martha Shore.--------------- At dinner, Marla and Dalton sit with tense employees and associates of a Tampa art museum. Apparently an unknown benefactor paid for them to attend the cruise and each of them received a note similar to that ¿Martha¿ got. When the cruise hosts an art auction to include the work of an artist Alden Tusk who died mysteriously from a fall, Marla decides enough as she not one to let her hair knot. Instead, she begins to investigate who is behind the threatening notes who, if a different person, is the secret patron paying for the museum staff to come on the cruise and how did the artist die and if it was murder who is the killer? She investigates this while trying to get on with her fiancé¿s family.----------- This laid-back cruise cozy is a fun Bad Hair Day Mystery as Marla struggles with balancing her investigation with meeting the folks. In many ways her sleuthing takes a back seat to her insecurities as she wonders if the parents and the teen will accept her. Fans who appreciate an amiable often amusing tale will enjoy Marla¿s seaworthy antics dealing with KILLER KNOTS that rival her previous PERISH BY PEDICURE pedigree.--------- Harriet Klausner