Wednesday, June 02, 2010

Dolled Up for Murder by Deb Baker

Title: Dolled Up for Murder
Author: Deb Baker
ISBN: 0425212637, Berkley Prime Crime, 2006
Genre: Cozy, Amateur Sleuth, #1 Dolls to Die For mystery
Rating: B
Source: Paperback Swap

First Line: Head buried under a mound of pillows, Gretchen Birch struggled to ignore the phone's incessant ringing.

I've been waiting for someone to cough up the first book in Baker's Yooper mystery series for months and months. It seems as though this series is so good that no one wants to turn loose of their copies. I wasn't quite ready to buy my own, so I ordered Dolled Up for Murder instead, and I'm glad I did.

That sounds like a very strange thing to say right about now when I tell all of you that I almost stopped reading the book a few pages in when I identified the Bad Guy. (The author and I like the same Peter Sellers films.) What kept me reading? Oh... things like Baker's writing style, the Phoenix metropolitan setting, and the "doll angle". My grandmother collected antique dolls, and I picked up a lot of knowledge by osmosis.

Anyway... Gretchen Birch gets a phone call from her Aunt Nina in Phoenix. A homeless woman who had previously collected dolls was found dead at the base of a cliff. She was clutching a note in one hand that certainly seems to implicate Gretchen's mother in her death. To make matters worse, Gretchen's mother, Caroline, has disappeared. Gretchen packs a bag and catches the next plane to Phoenix. (Why do I feel as though I'm about to channel Glen Campbell?)

One of the first things Gretchen does when she settles down in her mother's house is to hike up Camelback Mountain. In July. In the afternoon. I began to think this young woman had a few too many screws loose. Then her Aunt Nina who trains purse dogs made an appearance, and the two of them were off to the races, driving all over the Valley checking in with other doll collectors and trying to avoid the detective who's following them.

I'm very glad I didn't stop reading when I figured out whodunit. I'm very glad I remembered that it's not always all about WHO; many times HOW and WHY are every bit as important in a mystery. Gretchen, her Aunt Nina and her mom Caroline were all engaging characters, and I really enjoyed all the information Baker shared about doll collecting. However, I hope that the next time I read about Gretchen hiking up Camelback Mountain, it's not on a July afternoon. Just the thought of it makes me feel a bit woozy.


  1. Cathy - Thanks for this review. You are absolutely right that why and how can be just as important - and compelling - as who. This book looks interesting : ).

  2. If a book is only about WHO, it is probably not my taste anyway. I know some readers love guessing at the protagonist, but if the plot and the characters are great, I don´t even bother to try.

  3. I'm liking the fact that you were able to read both of the books eventhough you already figured them out. It takes a strong writing style to keep you reading and both books sound like they have that going for them. Glad you enjoyed them.

  4. Wonder if Glen Campbell ever did make it to Phoenix? :D

  5. Margot-- I think it's all too easy to get caught up in the who, but when I stop to think about it, usually the why is just as important to me.

    Dorte-- I don't set out to guess whodunit. Normally their identities just slap me in the face, and it's usually a sign that something's wrong with the book. I was very fortunate with these last two books.

    Ryan-- You hit the nail on the head: the writing style was just too good!

    Barbara-- Yup. He's lived in Paradise Valley for years. :)

  6. Have not heard of this author before. Thanks for sharing!

  7. I'm glad you enjoyed this one even though you almost put it down. This is one that I've never thought about reading just because of the doll aspect of it, they kinda freak me out.

  8. Julie-- You're welcome!

    Kris-- Is that anything like me not wanting to look at clowns after reading Stephen King's It? :)


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