Savvy hairstylist and amateur sleuth Marla Vail enters a charity bake-off contest at a fall festival sponsored by a local farm. While she waits to see if her coconut fudge pie is a winner, Marla joins a scavenger hunt where people playing character roles are the targets. Instead of scoring points with a live person, she finds a dead body planted face-down in the strawberry field. Who would want to cut short the life of food magazine publisher and fellow bake-off contestant Francine Dodger? As she investigates, Marla learns there’s no shortage of suspects. A celebrity TV chef, food critic, olive oil importer, food truck owner, pastry chef, and cookbook author may be stirring up more than their next recipe. Can Marla unmask the killer before someone else gets trimmed from life?
Bestselling author Nancy J. Cohen spent some time with The Big Thrill discussing the fifteenth installment in The Bad Hair Day mystery series, TRIMMED TO DEATH:
What do you hope readers will take away from this book?
I hope readers will relate to the importance of friends and family as shown in this story. My sleuth’s personal journey is as important as the mystery. She reconciles with her best friend after a tragedy that has brought them back together, and she looks forward to spending more time with her own loved ones. But mostly, the story is meant to entertain and provide a few hours of happy escape.
How does this book make a contribution to the genre?
TRIMMED TO DEATH has food, friends, murder, mirth, and mayhem. This title, #15 in the Bad Hair Day Mysteries, finds intrepid sleuth Marla Vail entering a bake-off contest at a fall harvest festival. The story will appeal to readers who like humor along with a challenging puzzle to solve. Marla’s character progresses as a salon owner, wife, and stepmother. Will she be ready to take the next big step in her life? Cozy readers care about the relationships among the characters, and they’ll be gratified to see how far Marla has come in her evolution.
Was there anything new you discovered, or that surprised you, as you wrote this book?
I discovered a lot of new things about the characters that I didn’t expect. What I had the most fun with, though, was researching olives. I’m an olive fan, so I looked up olive oil scams and how olives are processed. I learned quite a bit about this delicacy and hope readers will enjoy these nuggets of information.
No spoilers, but what can you tell us about your book that we won’t find in the jacket copy or the PR material?
I modeled the farm in the story on Bedner Farms, a local farm with U-pick fields and a gourmet marketplace. This story is about food with a bake-off contest and recipes, and it allowed me to share my joy of cooking and experimenting with recipes. Try my coconut fudge pie and you’ll see what I mean.
What authors or books have influenced your career as a writer, and why?
The Horatio Hornblower series taught me the importance of character growth as we watch the hero start as a midshipman in the British Navy and work his way up to admiral. I couldn’t wait for the sequels to see what would happen next to this young man. And that’s how you have to hook the reader. It’s not about the mystery. Yes, readers want a puzzle to solve. But they’ll come back for more only if they care about the protagonist, who needs to grow and change as in real life.
Nancy J. Cohen writes the Bad Hair Day Mysteries featuring South Florida hairstylist Marla Vail. Titles in this series have made the IMBA bestseller list, been selected by Suspense Magazine as best cozy mystery, won a Readers’ Favorite Gold Medal, and earned third place in the Arizona Literary Awards. Nancy has also written the instructional guide Writing the Cozy Mystery. A featured speaker at libraries, conferences, and community events, she is listed in Contemporary Authors, Poets & Writers, and Who’s Who in U.S. Writers, Editors, & Poets. When not busy writing, Nancy enjoys fine dining, cruising, visiting Disney World, and shopping.
To learn more about Nancy and the Bad Hair Day Mystery series, please visit her website.