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Hairstylist Marla Vail is having a blast visiting a Florida living history village over Fourth of July weekend. But when a battle reenactment turns up a real dead body, it sets off fireworks among the villagers. One of the cast members has gone off script to murder the town marshal. Instead of spending the holiday chilling and grilling, somebody’s mind is on killing. Marla determines to find the culprit before she becomes the next victim. Recipes Included!

“The author takes an entertaining path to the big reveal and manages to throw in just enough deceptive clues to keep the reader second-guessing.” – Readers’ Favorite

“A fun read full of surprise twists, family moments, and an ending to warm your heart. Sure to delight cozy fans.” – Books A Plenty

“Nancy Cohen weaves a magnificent mystery with hints and clues interspersed throughout for the reader to find. A fun and fascinating mystery.” – InD’Tale Magazine

Nancy J. Cohen recently spent some time with The Big Thrill discussing her latest thriller, STAR TANGLED MURDER.

Which took shape first: plot, character, or setting?

The setting inspired this story after I visited Yesteryear Village in West Palm Beach. I decided a living history village would be the perfect background for a cozy mystery wherein all of the suspects know each other. Then it was a matter of figuring out who was murdered. I gave each character a motive so that all of the cast members became suspects. Toss in Fourth of July weekend and a battle reenactment during which the body is found, and fireworks result.

Nancy J. Cohen

What attracts you to this book’s genre?

I enjoy cozy mysteries for their lighthearted approach. Readers expect a story with quirky characters, a victim we might love to hate, and clues that let the reader follow along with the sleuth. Justice is always served, and often you’ll close the book with a smile. A story with a happy ending is what we need to escape from the daily news. If the mystery has a touch of romance and humor, that’s even better.

What was the biggest challenge this book presented? What about the biggest opportunity?

The biggest challenge was figuring out ways for my sleuth to gain information without having characters spill the beans too easily. That’s always an issue for me. As for the biggest opportunity, this book starts off during a holiday weekend, so I can use that angle in my promotion.

Was there anything new you discovered, or surprised you, as you wrote this book?

I love learning new things for a story. In STAR TANGLED MURDER, I learned why men and women button their shirts differently. I discovered how green, black, and oolong tea are processed. I explored making an outdoor oven, how to use fire-starting kits, what is the green corn dance, and more. My readers expect these little factoids in my books. I just have to be careful not to expound too much on each topic that interests me.

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 had fun creating a July Fourth menu that’s at the end of the book with recipes. I’ve never really had an Independence Day party, but now I feel as though I could pull one together with an easy meal. Marla tastes some dishes at the living history park, too. She tries homemade biscuits and a Native American corn drink. Food always plays a role in my stories.

What authors or books have influenced your career as a writer, and why?

I have to give credit to my fellow authors at for helping me with questions regarding publishing, career direction, promotion and more. We all need a support network, and they’re there for me. Otherwise, I’ve read series in other genres that engage me, and from those stories I’ve learned how the main character’s growth and evolution in a series is what draws readers back. It’s the protagonist’s changing relationships that keep each book fresh.

What does your main character learn from this story?

She decides her family is more important than her sleuthing, and they need her full attention. She’s come full circle from the first book in the series, Permed to Death. Her life is about to change again because nothing is ever static, and she’ll have to adjust. A main character never stops evolving.


Nancy J. Cohen writes the Bad Hair Day Mysteries featuring South Florida hairstylist Marla Vail. Titles in this series have been named Best Cozy Mystery by Suspense Magazine, won the Readers’ Favorite Book Awards and the RONE Award, placed first in the Chanticleer International Book Awards and third in the Arizona Literary Awards. Her nonfiction titles, Writing the Cozy Mystery and A Bad Hair Day Cookbook, have won the FAPA President’s Book Award, the Royal Palm Literary Award, and IAN Book of the Year. Active in the writing community, Nancy is a past president of Florida Chapter of MWA. When not busy writing, she enjoys reading, fine dining, cruising, and visiting Disney World.

To learn more about the author, please visit her website.