MYSTERY

Staged to Death: A Caprice De Luca Mystery

Kensington. Dec. 2013. 376p. ISBN 9780758284846. pap. $7.99. M
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Interior designer Caprice De Luca has created a profitable subniche by becoming a home stager for clients preparing to sell their homes. Recently, Caprice has been working with an old friend, Roz, and her husband, Ted. Their castle-motif home features Ted's extensive knife and dagger collection. Unfortunately, one of those valuable daggers is used to kill him off. Disagreeable Ted had plenty of enemies: he was having an affair, his company has problems, and even the gardener hated him. Roz begs Caprice to help since the police suspect her, so Caprice starts poking around. Thanks to Caprice's large family and small-town connections, the clues pile up. In classic amateur fashion, there's a fair amount of blundering, but two good-looking guys, a couple of sisters, and a cooperative police department all make it work out.
VERDICT Prolific series author Smith (Marrying Dr. Maverick) shows her romance chops with her debut cozy mystery set in small-town Pennsylvania. Her mystery plot leaves readers in the dark for a few too many pages, though, leading to a sudden, abrupt ending. That said, the ensemble cast is charming.

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