Publisher: Penguin Group
Release Date: Oct 2, 2012
Retail Price: 7.99
There’s always something to gossip about in Savannah, Georgia, and Reagan Summerside always seems to be in the middle of it. She’s busy enough running her consignment shop, The Prissy Fox, with her vivacious Auntie KiKi, but now the gossip—and the sales—are about to pick up after a gruesome discovery…
Reagan’s messy divorce has left her with nothing but a run-down Victorian and a bunch of designer clothes. Strapped for cash, Reagan makes use of the two things she has left, turning the first floor of her home into a consignment shop and filling it with the remnants of her rich-wife wardrobe.
Thanks to his cunning lawyer Walker Boone, her ex got everything else, including the Lexus—not to mention a young blond cupcake. When Reagan finds the cupcake dead in the Lexus, she’s determined to beat Boone to finding the murderer. As it turns out, the gossip fiends flooding Reagan’s shop will give her a lot more than just their unwanted clothes— they have information more precious than a vintage Louis Vuitton…
Series: A Consignment Shop Mystery
For fans of: Diane Kelly, Wendy Lynn Watson
Reagan Summerside is in dire straits. Thanks to the legal maneuverings of her slimy ex-husband Hollis' ace attorney, Walker Boone, she exited her marriage with nothing but a closetful of designer clothes (which she's having to sell off just to stock her fridge) and a promise from Hollis that she’d get the half-renovated Victorian the two shared. It's not much, but she was the one stupid enough to sign a prenup, and at least this arrangement leaves her with a roof over her head – right?
Then, however, Hollis' new girlfriend, a perky young real estate agent nicknamed Cupcake, goes and gets herself murdered, and thanks to a very public argument the two shared on the night of her death, Hollis quickly becomes the police's main suspect. Boone's services don't come cheap, and the recent decline in the economy has left Hollis a little light on cash, so he decides to fund his defense by selling the only asset he has left: the house Reagan calls home. Reagan's unsurprised that Hollis would go back on his word and throw her out on the street just to save his own hide, but she refuses to give up the Victorian without a fight. Can she catch the real killer and spring Hollis, thereby obviating the need for an attorney altogether, or is she destined to wind up not only penniless, but homeless, as well?
Iced Chiffon is the first of Duffy Brown’s Consignment Shop Mysteries, and it’s one of the best traditional mystery debuts I’ve read to date. Brown’s prose is quite simply a joy to read – sharp, snappy, and full of wit. Her setup is brilliant in its simplicity, the plot is engaging and fun, and her story features just the right blend of drama, comedy, and romance. Brown’s mystery is complex, intriguing, and chock full of viable suspects and expertly deployed red herrings (I’m embarrassed to admit how many I fell for). And the book has a remarkably strong sense of place, as well; from the weather to the gardens to the architecture to the local food and drink, she paints such a wonderfully vivid picture of Savannah that it’s practically a character in its own right.
Brown’s dialogue is marvelous – intelligent and snarky with just the right amount of Southern charm – and her character work is top-notch. Reagan is the perfect traditional mystery heroine: strong, smart, independent, and yes, bitter, but with a healthy sense of humor about herself and her situation. Her boozy Aunt Kiki makes for the perfect sidekick – hilarious, and yet fiercely loyal and full of heart. And Walker Boone is nothing short of fabulous. Dark, dangerous, and sexy as hell, he's a man you’ll love to hate and hate to love, and if you don’t spend the entire book desperately hoping he’ll eventually make the transition from antagonist to love interest, you should probably get your head examined. The sparks between him and Reagan are so bright they’re practically blinding, and their interactions are one of the most compelling things about an already fantastic book.
Few people earn a spot on my must-read list with their debut, but Brown has done just that with Iced Chiffon. Buy this book. Buy it now. And while you're at it, buy copies for all your friends. Y’all can thank me later.
Reviewed by Kat N.
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