Hair shop rivalry comes to a head when South Florida hairstylist Marla Shore finds the body of her competitor behind their mutual shopping center. When Detective Dalton Vail asks for her help in solving the case, she eagerly accepts. Carolyn Sutton may not have been her friend, but Marla believes in justice. Plus, she’s curious as to why a hank of Carolyn’s hair is missing.
Her quest becomes personal when Wilda Cleaver, Carolyn’s trusted psychic and the new owner of her salon, insists that Carolyn’s spirit wants Marla to solve her murder. The psychic hints that she’d better succeed fast, or someone Marla loves might be next.
Carolyn’s resentful sister, her bingo partner, her chiropractor, a mysterious benefactor, and a local immigration lawyer fill the expanding list of suspects. With a hurricane approaching, Marla needs to untangle the snarl of clues before the storm hits and the murderer strikes again.
Died Blonde was originally published by Kensington. This Author’s Edition has been updated with added bonus materials.
“Another bright addition to a charming series.” Library Journal
“Intrepid Marla Shore is up to her elbows in hot water when a rival salon owner turns up dead. Marla follows a path of clues that includes a wacky psychic, bingo mamas and mysterious keepsakes. Nancy Cohen has penned another follicle raising frolic with a wry twist of romance.” P.J. Parrish, NY Times Bestselling Author
“Fans will be delighted that Marla finally gets engaged.” Publishers Weekly
“The sixth of Cohen’s Bad Hair Day series featuring hairdresser/shop owner Marla Shore is just as charming and as good a murder mystery as the others.” Pittsburgh Post-Gazette
“Nancy Cohen does a great job of pulling all the threads together to create an exciting ending with some heart stopping moments for Marla and someone very close to her…Died Blonde is a fun read with the developing relationship between Marla and Dalton the center of the story.” I Love A Mystery
“I’d recommend the series to anyone looking for a cozy read with some humor, some scary bits, and characters one can get to care about.” Reviewing the Evidence
“The action is heart-stopping enough to set your hair on end.” Kingston Observer
“Florida hairstylist and beauty shop owner Marla Shore is a smart, capable woman with a skill for sleuthing.” RT Book Reviews
“Died Blonde is a thoroughly enjoyable mystery, and one which you won’t want to miss!” Murder on the Beach Mystery Bookstore
“Died Blonde is a hair-raising amateur sleuth mystery that also contains a fine romantic subplot.” The Best Reviews
“This is a story that you won’t want to put down, and once read, you’ll be looking for other books by this very talented author. Guaranteed to satisfy any mystery lover. Highly recommended as a fun read.” ReaderToReader.com
“A sure and fun ride for all with a psychic on board to spur the action.” Mysterylovers.com
“Intriguing, fun and full of unforgettable characters.” Romance Junkies
“This is a good story with an interesting cast of characters who reappear in each book, as well as new ones readers will enjoy. What at first seems like a gossipy family story ends up in a really scary situation in a hurricane. Very timely!” Mystery News
“Marla is a great character. Her salon business brings her in touch with so many people. She is always able to get the dirt that Vail cannot get. The relationship between Marla and Vail is wonderful too. I can’t wait to read the next book and see what happens to them. I highly recommend this book.” The Best Reviews
“A fun read!” Mysterious Women
“Nancy J. Cohen is a terrific writer who always provides her customers with a stylish tale as the author has done with this fine novel.” The Readers Guild
“It’s amusing to try to figure out which real South Florida sites are fictionalized in Died Blonde.” Sun Sentinel
“The power went out again. It’s the third time this month,” Marla Shore griped to her salon staff. She tossed her blow-dryer onto the counter in disgust. “I’m going to murder that woman.”
“You don’t know who’s responsible,” Nicole said, sorting foils for her next highlights job. “It might not be Carolyn’s fault this time. Just because she told the electric company to cancel your account before doesn’t mean she’s to blame again. It could be another outage due to a storm.”
“Come on, ever since Carolyn opened her new beauty shop, we’ve been suffering one calamity after another. I’d be suing her for putting honey in my developer if I could prove she’d done it. Do you know how long it took me to wash that goo out of Abby’s hair? My poor client smelled like a beehive. This shopping strip cannot support two salons, no matter what our landlord says.”
“Carolyn’s Hairstyle Heaven is no match for your Cut ’N Dye,” Jennifer called from across the room. “If you accuse her of resorting to tricks to undermine your business, she’ll slap a lawsuit on you.”
Marla nodded at the other stylist. “You’re right. Carolyn wouldn’t hesitate to take advantage if I make a single misstep.”
“Listen up, girlfriend,” Nicole warned. “I see more trouble brewing on your face than in those summer storm clouds outside. Carolyn isn’t worth your time of day. Just call FPL and see what’s going on.”
Marla turned to the savvy businesswoman seated at her station. Babs Winrow was senior vice president of Tylex Industries and a regular customer. “I’m so sorry for the delay. I know you’re in a hurry to make a flight. Just give me a few minutes to see what’s wrong.”
Marla retrieved her cell phone from a skirt pocket and dialed the number for the local electric company. “Your power is still connected,” said a spokesperson for Florida Power and Light. “Have you checked the circuit breakers?”
“No, I’ll do that next. You’re sure nobody ordered my electricity cut off or canceled my account in error?”
“Yes, ma’am. One other place you might look is the main connection. It might trip even if the circuits look okay. Also, see if your neighbors are having the same problem. If the outage continues, call us back, and we’ll send a service crew out there.”
“Thanks, I appreciate your help.” Marla hung up and tucked the phone back inside her pocket. The electrical box was located on a wall toward the rear.
After opening the panel, she studied the switches. From what she could tell, they were all turned on.
“Go next door and see if their power is out,” Nicole suggested, her voice as warm as her cinnamon skin.
“Want me to go?” asked Luis, their new receptionist.
“No thanks, I’ll do it.” Marla glanced his way. She had hired the Cuban-American after interviewing a number of female airheads and bimbo types who’d applied for the job. His charming smile had persuaded her to give him a chance. Their lady clients appreciated his sultry eyes, thick dark hair, and trim beard.
Marla valued his computer skills more than his looks. In the two weeks since he’d been there, he had updated her database, applied a more efficient inventory system, and recalled each customer’s name after a single introduction.
“Babs, I’ll be right back,” she called to her client. “We can go with mousse and a scrunch style if necessary. I want to see if anybody else is affected by this power outage.”
A few minutes later, she returned in defeat. “We’re the only ones without electricity,” she told her staff. She missed the usual hum of the air-conditioning unit and the whirring motors of blow-dryers. Even the curling irons were dead. Their front windows brought in plenty of sunlight, but that wouldn’t help them get through the work day.
Nicole’s chocolate brown eyes met hers. “I’ll admit; it’s strange. This smacks of Carolyn’s tactics.”
“Tell me about it.” Marla had been provoked one time too many by her longtime rival. Since moving into the same shopping strip several months ago, Carolyn Sutton had done everything possible to sabotage Marla’s business. “If that woman is responsible, it’ll be her last mean act. I’ll make sure she doesn’t hurt us again.”
Marla rummaged in a drawer by the reception desk and withdrew a set of keys. “I’m going to check the meter room. Jenny, can you finish Babs for me? I won’t charge you for today,” she told her hapless client before heading toward the rear.
Outside, she breathed in a lungful of warm, moist air. August in South Florida brought heavy humidity, and Palm Haven was no exception. The hot sun broiled her scalp as she crossed the asphalt to the concrete bunker that housed the shopping center’s main circuits. It stood by the trash receptacle, where the stench of overheated garbage made her hurry along.
This is just how I want to spend my Tuesday morning. If the juice doesn’t come back on soon, our salon will turn as ripe as that refuse.
As she approached the meter room, Marla noticed the door was slightly ajar. Wasn’t it usually kept locked?
She pushed the door open until it stopped, as though it had hit something. The pitch-black interior blocked her from seeing the obstruction. She fumbled for a light switch, wishing she’d had the foresight to bring a flashlight.
Nothing happened when she pressed the button on the wall.
What’s going on? She pushed her way inside, wrinkling her nose at a stale smell. She’d only been in here once before, when the electrician had to do repairs. All she remembered was a mess of circuitry and a stash of supplies belonging to the landlord. He’d been cited for safety hazards and ordered to clean up, but she suspected the paint cans, hoses, and scraps of metal were still there.
She nearly tripped over the blockage by the door and stopped to prod it with her foot. The thing’s soft and lumpy feel made her skin prickle.
More light! She had to see more clearly.
She nudged the door open further and stared at the area exposed to light. Surely, that didn’t look like a body? No, it couldn’t be a woman lying there on the ground.
Stifling the urge to retreat, Marla knelt and prodded the still form. She should feel for a pulse, her rational mind said. She’d just reached out when a clattering noise made her heart leap into her throat.
She screamed as a dark form whizzed past, knocking into her with enough force to send her tumbling onto her side.
Before she could regain her senses, the door slammed shut. Darkness enveloped her, as though a giant black hole had swallowed her into its depths.
Dear Lord, don’t let me be stuck in here with a dead body.
Quelling a surge of panic, she crawled toward the door. When her fingers outlined its shape, she hauled herself upright. She found the knob and rattled it until her teeth shook. The door wouldn’t budge.
Get a grip, Marla. You need to call for help.
Would she get cell phone service in here? Hey, if nothing else, she had a flashlight app on her device. She’d forgotten all about it.
Fortune stayed with her, because she was able to place a call to the salon.
“Luis, it’s me. I’m stuck in the meter room, and the door won’t open. Something must have gotten wedged in the way.” Her voice came out as a raspy croak.
“I’ll be right there, luv.”
“Wait, there’s a—” She stopped when he hung up. Anyway, her imagination might be playing tricks on her. Another shopkeeper could have had electrical problems and come in here, only to receive a disabling shock from the wiring.
She stood frozen, not daring to shine her cell phone light on the other occupant of the room. When she heard scratching sounds from outside, she hollered, “Luis, is that you? I’m trapped in here.” She pounded on the door, her heartbeat as frantic as her fist.
A moment later, daylight blinded her. She raised a hand to shade her eyes.
“Someone had jammed a piece of wood under the transom,” Luis reported. “Are you all right? What happened?”
“You’d better see this.” Marla pointed to the body.
His gaze shifted, and he muttered an expletive. “Sweet saints. It looks like…switch on the light, will you? I can’t see well enough.”
“It won’t work. I’ve already tried.”
With a grunt of impatience, Luis headed to the mains and flipped a couple of switches. “No wonder our power was out. Somebody tampered with the main circuitry.” Bright light from an overhead bulb flooded the interior.
“Oh, my God.” Marla stared down at the vacant face of her rival salon owner, Carolyn Sutton. She didn’t have to assess her further to know the woman was dead. The odd angle of her neck told the story.
Her knees wobbled, and she put a hand on the wall to steady herself. “I-I pushed past the door, and there she was. Then someone knocked into me. Whoever was here slammed the door and locked me inside.”
Luis’s solemn gaze met hers. “The cops will want to hear the details. You’ll have to call Detective Vail. I’m sure your boyfriend will be delighted to find you in the middle of another investigation.”