It isn’t unusual for writers of detective fiction to add a kick to their stories by setting them in a very specific mileiu. The Dick Francis Horseracing series is a great example. This new series is aimed at a smaller audience: those interested in vintage clothing. But even if you’re not a retro freak, this novel is still worth the read.
It is the story of Joanna Hayworth, owner of Telulah’s Closet, a vintage clothing store in Portland, Oregon. She is the usual innocent busybody who gets dragged, partly by mistake but mostly by personality, into mysteries that need solving. The stories all have something to do with antique clothing, leading us smoothly into the past problems of the people who wore it.
I found Joanna endearing for her quirkiness and her loyalty to her friends. Her blockheaded stubbornness is one of those things that you put up with in someone you like. And it makes for good conflict. The suspense is well written, the clothing references add depth, and the supporting characters are quirky and fun.
Unfortunately the whole plot revolves around a not-stupid police detective making a stupid decision, leaving our heroine in charge of the only true solution. The ability to write watertight plots is a given in detective fiction these days. One can’t help but compare this series to the Corrina Chapman mysteries (bakery stories) by Kerry Greenwood. “Lanavin Murders” isn’t quite up to that standard, but it’s a good read nonetheless.
The author herself typifies this series as “good, smart, trashy reading.” I heartily concur. 4 stars out of five.