Harley Jane Kozak
Dating Dead Mean (2004)
Author: Harley Jane Kozak
Genre: Mystery (Amateur Detective)
As if Wollie Shelley needed more going on in her life. She was already struggling to make a success of her Sunset Boulevard greeting card shop and original card designs, juggle her participation in Dr. Cookie's dating experiment (forty men in under two months), and care for her hospitalized paranoid schizophrenic brother, P.B. So when she finds her self staring at a dead body in the driveway of the state mental hospital and then kidnapped by a shoeless man with a ferret in his pocket, and later running from the mafia, her life reaches the apex of chaos. Luckily Wollie has close friends to help. Plot twist after plot twist unravels Wollie's suspicions about her brother's involvement in the murder and her growing danger of knowing too much regarding the merchandise sought by the mafia. SPOILER: Much to Wollie's relief the dead body in the road was her brother's friend, not victim. He was the luckless victim in a case of mistaken identity by Swedish mafia associates--the bullet was intended for the ferret-bearing kidnapper! Wollie survives several attempts on her life and eventually finds true love, even though the kidnapper turned lover does not meet all of the requirements on her dating list.
Geographical Setting: Los Angeles
Time Period: Present day (2004)
Series: Dating Mysteries, Book 1
Harley Jane Kozak is the 2005 winner of the Agatha Best First Novel Award for this humorous chicklit meets mystery. Readers who enjoy getting to know characters will appreciate Kozak's characterization of Wollie, her friends and even her foes. For example, over-the-top Fredreeq; Joey, Wollie's level-headed friend; and Wollie's fond memories of her comforting childhood nanny, Ruta color the novel to show the people of Wollie's present and past. What's more, Kozak's fluid writing style allows readers to easily follow complex plot twists, numerous subplots and themes. The novel is embroiled in outrageous personalities, dangerous situations, and Los Angeles scenery. But despite the detail readers are compelled to read on and discover who killed the innocent man, what Wollie will wear on her next date, and whether or not Wollie will find love.
Read-alikes: Following the success of this novel Harley Jane Kozak began a series starring Wollie Shelley. Dating is Murder, the series's second novel was published in 2005. For readers who relished the details of Wollie's career-oriented life and struggles with the corporate representative from her Greeting card shop franchise might enjoy Leslie Weisenberger's The Devil Wears Prada. Mirroring Kozak's unexpected plot twists, humor and Los Angeles back drop, readers might enjoy Kate Clemens's quick read, Sweet Revenge, an original tale about dating gone wrong, and right again. For those who seek cozy mysteries with amateur female investigators, Janet Evanovich's first novel in the Alexa Barnaby series, Metro Girl might appease their tastes as well as Susan Kandel's I Dreamed I Married Perry Mason.
Red flags: While this mystery is fairly cozy, there is some blood and action "on-stage." Also, readers who have an aversion premarital sex, may not be best suited to enjoy this novel.