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Permed to Death by Nancy J. Cohen
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Beauty Salon owner Marla Shore is more than a little upset when one of her customers, Bertha Kravitz, dies after drinking coffee containing poisoned powdered creamer. Not only is she afraid she'll lose her customers, but the police, especially Detective Dalton Vail, seem to think she's the murderer, since she was the only one with Bertha when she died and Marla is the one that gave her the coffee. Marla is afraid that the police will discover that she had more than one reason to kill Bertha and not look for the real murderer, so she begins to investigate the case herself. Marla finds lots of suspects - Bertha wasn't a likeable person and had many enemies - but she needs to convince Detective Vail. In the meantime, as she investigates the murder, she also has to confront a few demons of her own - a tragic death in her past, a foolish mistake when she was young, and a failed marriage.

"Permed to Death" was a disappointing mystery. Marla was an unsympathetic and unlikable character, far too judgmental and abrupt with people. Even the tragic accident failed to make her sympathetic, perhaps because it was mentioned too often in the book. Her dwelling on people's appearances, especially their hair cuts, was mean spirited and got old very quickly. She's also not one of the brightest characters ever written - Bertha dies from poison and yet, when someone anonymously leaves Marla a box of candy, she almost eats it! The other characters don't come off much better and Marla's friend Tally, with her obsession about food, is especially obnoxious. Detective Vail is also poorly written, asking Marla out when she is still the chief suspect and he even takes her along with him to help investigate the murder - truly unbelievable. As for the mystery itself, while there are plenty of suspects in Bertha's death, it's pretty easy for readers to narrow down who the murderer is.

While I liked the beauty salon setting, "Permed to Death" was not a great mystery. ( )
  drebbles | Jan 15, 2010 |
Incredibly laborious to read. The book plod, plod, plods through minutiae and scenic details that add nothing to the ambiance or the plot of the story. Unbelievable "investigating" by the main character. She approaches suspects and says, "Hi! Where were you on the night so and so was killed?" Smooth. Subtle. And astoundingly, every suspect answers and only then says, "Hey! Are you investigating a murder? Do you think I am a suspect?"

Here is an example of the plodding writing and characterization: the main character needs to seek out a lawyer to stop being evicted, and she wrings her hands and says, "But I don't know any lawyer I can trust!" And only when the deadline to be evicted draws near does she find a lawyer, who, wow! gives her some good advice.

The romance aspect of this story is forced and unenjoyable.

The reader is in the main character's head the entire time, and yet a big secret about her isn't revealed until 193 pages in. This type of withholding info to facilitate a "surprise" annoys me and is weak storytelling. We know in excruciating detail everything about what she wears (pantsuits! in Florida!), what everyone else wears, whole paragraphs devoted to interrupting the flow of dialogue to demonstrate her driving skills, and yet this secret she is ashamed of is constantly alluded to and only revealed so late in the game that I don't care about it. Argh! ( )
  MelindaLibrary | Mar 27, 2009 |
This was my first book to read by this author. I loved it!!! Marla is a fun person and the problems that she goes through in her life are things that happen to us all (except for solving murders lol). I want to read all of this series!! I give it 5 stars *****!!
  Purplefeather | May 29, 2008 |
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A murder mystery in a hair salon featuring its owner, Marla Shore. It begins when one of her customers is poisoned by the coffee Marla served. Someone slipped cyanide into the artificial creamer.

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