Saturday, March 31, 2012

Book Report: Frill Kill by Laura Childs

When I started reading Frill Kill, a scrapbooking mystery novel by Laura Childs, I wondered who this Laura Childs was and how she would feel if she knew that her book had ended up at the dollar store.  So I checked out to find out more.  It turns out that Childs is quite enterprising, as she pens two other mystery series in addition to the scrapbooking line, namely the tea shop mysteries and the Cackleberry Club mysteries.  Ever the go-getter, she formerly owned her own ad agency and now writes full-time.  Her next scrapbooking mystery is called Postcards from the Dead and will be on sale next October.  Armed with this information, I'm fairly sure that the dollar store thing wouldn't faze her.

As you've probably guessed, Frill Kill falls into the cozy mystery genre.  Heroine Carmela owns an intimate and upscale scrapbooking supply shop, the like of which I've never encountered in life or fiction, and her best friend Ava owns a voodoo shop.  The setting is darkly glamorous New Orleans, so the cozy-sweet factor is slightly undercut by a bold bayou bite.  Speaking of bites, a lethal one claims the life of young fashion model Amber in the alley behind Ava's shop.  The marks on Amber's neck coupled with the hairs found on her body send whispers of vampires and werewolves into the pre-Halloween air.  Scandal surrounds the boutique where Amber worked, spurring Carmela and Ava to add sleuthing to their already jam-packed agenda of shopkeeping, partying, modeling, and decorating for the big French Quarter Halloween carnival.  To add to the drama, Carmela is being wooed by her soon-to-be-ex-husband and the alternately surly and sexy detective in charge of the case.

A colorful yarn spiced with Southern sass, Frill Kill goes down like a mint julep.  (Or at least how I imagine a mint julep would go down.)  I especially enjoyed Childs's lush descriptions, my favorite of which is:

"Grand Folly Costume Shop glowed like a theater marquee as overhead pinpoint spotlights bounced and reflected off racks of glitzy, glamorous costumes.  Sequins, spangles, and gold lame seemed to be the watchword.  On shelves overhead, plastic, faceless heads showcased hats, wigs, tiaras, and crowns of every style and color.  Amid all this faux splendor, the smell of mothballs, cigarettes, and cleaning fluid hung redolent in the air." (91)

To me, this snippet encapsulates the sumptuousness and seediness unique to New Orleans.

The mystery itself stretched toward the predictable.  Not that I figured it out, mind you.  (I never do.)  But I wasn't awestruck either when the code was finally cracked.  Yet it's this lack of shock value that contributes to the collective blanket that is the cozy mystery.  No one ever curls up with creepiness.    

The next time I visit Amazon to stock up on books, I may just make a return journey to the French Quarter.

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