Sassy salon owner Marla Shore is giving grumpy Mrs. Kravitz a perm when her client dies in the shampoo chair. If that isn’t enough to give her a bad hair day, handsome Detective Vail suspects Marla of poisoning the woman’s coffee creamer. Figuring she’d better expose the real killer before the next victim frizzes out, Marla sets on the trail of a wave of wacky suspects. Her theory regarding whodunit gels only after she looks for the culprit closer to home.
“A terrific mystery debut for Nancy Cohen. Marla the beautician is a delight!”—Tamar Myers, author of the Pennsylvania Dutch Mysteries.
Targeted Age Group:: Adult
What Inspired You to Write Your Book?
I was getting a perm, waiting for my timer to go off and watching the other customers staring into space. I thought, we need something gripping to read to kill time. Why not kill off one of these ladies? A hair salon seemed like the perfect backdrop for a mystery series. And so was born hairstylist and salon owner Marla Shore. In Permed to Death, she's giving her crabby client a perm when the woman dies in the shampoo chair. Handsome Detective Vail suspects Marla of poisoning the woman's coffee creamer.
How Did You Come up With Your Characters?
A hairstylist is in a great position of overhear conversations. People confide in their hairdressers, and it can be a mobile profession such as when a stylist does a wedding party. So Marla the hairdresser is my sleuth. In the first book, she's interviewed by Detective Dalton Vail who becomes her love interest throughout the series. Other characters include Marla's relatives, friends, and business associates.
“I’m Detective Dalton Vail. Please tell me what happened from the start, Miss Shore.” When she’d finished, he studied his notes. “Let’s see if I’ve got this straight. You wrapped her hair, gave her a cup of coffee, then went into the back room. Hearing a noise, you returned to find the woman slumped in the chair.”
Marla nodded. “That’s right.” Her knees weakening, she sank onto a seat at the closest hair station. A quick glance in the mirror unsettled her. Her shiny chestnut hair curled inward at chin length, wispy bangs feathering a forehead creased with worry lines. A stranger’s fearful eyes, dark as toffee, stared back at her. Surely, that ghastly complexion couldn’t be hers. She looked ill, which was certainly how she felt, but this wasn’t as horrible as that day when—
“You made a fresh pot of coffee just before Mrs. Kravitz came in?” Detective Vail asked, ripping her away from painful memories.
She nodded, glad for the distraction. “I poured some coffee into her mug, then added a package of sugar and two spoonfuls of powdered creamer. My other customers prefer Half & Half, but Bertha insisted on using the dry variety. I kept a jar just for her.”
A gleam entered his gray eyes. “Where is it?”
“I’m afraid I threw it out. I’d used up the last amount. She said the coffee tasted bitter,” Marla recalled. “I didn’t think much of it because she complained about everything.”
“Did you notice the color of the creamer?”
“Any unusual odors?”
“No…yes. I did smell something after Mrs. Kravitz…when I went to feel her pulse. It reminded me of”—she wrinkled her nose—“marzipan. Yes, that’s it.”
His eyes narrowed. “You mean almonds?”
“I believe so.”
He scanned the tabletop holding the coffeemaker and related supplies. “Where do you normally keep the foodstuffs?”
“In a rear storeroom.”
“Who’s allowed back there?”
“Mainly the staff, but sometimes a client will wander inside to take a look. The door is always open.”
“You said the creamer jar was nearly empty. Did you recall using most of it the last time the lady was here?”
“Not really.” An idea dawned on her that made her pulse accelerate. “Surely you don’t think it was something in her drink?”
“We’re just collecting evidence, ma’am. The medical examiner will determine cause of death.”
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