Friday, December 12, 2014

Review: Suede to Rest by Diane Vallere

Suede to Rest
Author:  Diane Vallere
Series:  A Material Witness Mystery 1
Publisher:  Berkley, November 4, 2014
Format:  Mass Market Paperback and eBook, 304 pages
List Price:  $7.99 (print)
ISBN:  9780425270578 (print)
Review Copy:  Provided by the Publisher

Unraveling family secrets can be murder in Suede to Rest...

With her career as a dress designer in shreds, Polyester Monroe is looking forward to a fresh start. But as it all unfolds, the pattern to a new beginning looks a lot like murder.

When Poly Monroe was little, she loved playing in her family’s textile store. But after a fatal family tragedy, Land of A Thousand Fabrics was boarded up and Poly never expected to see the inside again. Now, as inheritor of the long-shuttered shop, she’s ready to restore the family business. However her two new kittens, Pins and Needles, aren’t the ones causing a snag in her plans…

Not everyone wants Poly back in San Ladrón, especially a powerful local developer pressuring her to sell—and leave town fast. But even when the threats turn deadly, she’s not ready to bolt. Because Poly is beginning to suspect that the murder behind the shop is tied to a mystery in her family’s unsettled past that she’s determined to solve…before her own life is left hanging by a thread.


Jennifer's Review

Suede to Rest is the first installment in the new Material Witness Mystery series. It introduces us to Polyester “Poly” Monroe, a dress designer and fashion enthusiast whose world is turned upside down by the death of her uncle. Poly inherits her family’s textile shop, which has been closed since becoming the scene of her aunt’s brutal murder over a decade ago. When Poly travels to the town of San Ladron, California with the intention of unloading the decaying property she is confronted with the reality of her aunt’s unsolved murder and begins to question the direction of her life and career. Before she can think seriously about what her inheritance means, she is embroiled in the questions surrounding her aunt’s murder, along with the investigation into the murder of a local elderly man, whose body is found right outside her newly acquired shop. Simultaneously, she is confronted with an aggressive campaign designed to make her sell her building and leave town, by person or persons unknown.

I found the character of Polyester, so named because she was born in the textile shop, a little hard to warm up to at first. She was in denial about the impact her aunt’s murder had on her life and flip-flopped for a long time about what she wanted to do with her life and the shop. However, as the story unfolded I saw that my initial assessment of Poly was all wrong. She was a little clueless about the murder, but there are reasons for that and I quickly saw the reasons for her hesitation and indecision regarding her personal life. Even though she received a less than warm welcome to the community she abandoned ten years ago, she refuses to be bullied or frightened into making her decision before she is ready.

During the course of the book we are introduced to various other members of the community. The author creates mystery surrounding these characters, so the reader is often left guessing right up to the end as to which characters are genuinely friendly and which ones have more sinister motives. We get to know Ken Watts, a former high school friend of Poly’s, now a successful real estate broker and get to laugh at the less-than-auspicious meeting of Poly and Vaughn McMichael, the handsome and seemingly arrogant prodigal son of the town’s wealthiest businessman. We also meet Charlie, a hard-as-nails female auto mechanic and Genevieve, the bubbly proprietor of a small tea shop. Of course, we also get acquainted with the local police force in the form of the skeptical Deputy Sheriff Clark and various other locals, along with some of Poly’s own family.

The mystery unfolds at a rather slow pace, but I feel that fact enhances the novel; the author provides so much in the form of intrigue that the slower pace works well. The reader is kept guessing right up to the end about not only the most recent murder, but also the murder of Poly’s aunt and the reason behind the systematic sabotage Poly was subjected to almost from the moment of her arrival in town. I also have to commend the author’s wonderful descriptive powers. She breathes so much life into the various textiles in Poly’s shop that the reader can almost feel the textures she is writing about. There is also a little hint of romance along with the business of solving murders. The ending was both surprising and enjoyable, a perfect combination in a cozy mystery, and sets up the possibility of more installments in the series, which I will be on the lookout for.


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