In Hair Raiser by Nancy J. Cohen, Marla Shore has volunteered to help her cousin Cynthia with Taste of the World, a major fundraiser for the Ocean Guard charity. If they do not succeed this year or fail to keep their beach property in Florida clean, the property will revert to an unknown heir. So when her cousin finds medical waste dumped on the beach, this proves to be a problem. Further, someone has been scaring away the famous chefs from the fundraiser using threatening letters and sabotage. Could the unnamed heir be a member of the Ocean Guard board in order to stop them from keeping the property for good? This becomes a distinct possibility when the lawyer on the board, whose partnership wrote up the will many years ago but who still seems to know who the heir is gets brutally murdered, bludgeoned to death.
Detective Dalton Vail is upset that Marla is getting herself involved again in a murder, especially since he is interested in her romantically. But Marla’s family is pushing a different man on her. Dealing with all this while also still trying to run her hair salon, where Marla snoops by having conversations with her customers makes her life really wild.
The plot of this book comes with a good premise. Being set in the south of Florida, it suits well to use the context of an oceanic environmental charity for the basis of the mystery. I also like the way the book uses the setting of Marla’s hair salon to let her do her detection, since people so often tell everything to their hairdressers as they sit getting their hair done week to week or month to month.
This book does a good job of portraying the American Jewish culture of Marla’s family. They have a kosher Thanksgiving feast and are eager to push a rich Jewish man on Marla, whether or not he is nice. But everyone has skeletons in his or her closet. But despite this fact, the characters in this book do not have the depth that I like to see in books. I don’t picture the people other than Marla and the two men fighting for her affections, Vail and David. I also did not like the way Marla takes such obvious risks in going out on her own in dangerous situations. The book actually telegraphs bad situations and characters to the reader in advance, which gets annoying after a while.
I continue to like the choice of Mary Ann Jacobs as the narrator of the book. She has a unique-sounding voice that gives good expression to the book.
Hair Raiser is an enjoyable sequel to Permed to Death, but it doesn’t quite measure up to the level set by the first book in the series. I did find myself rooting for Marla’s happiness, and I hope to see better things in her future in upcoming books. I give this book four stars.
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