Table of Contents
Praise for the Crime of Fashion mysteries
“Devilishly funny. Byerrum intersperses the book with witty excerpts from Lacey’s ‘Fashion Bites’ columns, such as ‘When Bad Clothes Happen to Good People’ and ‘Thank Heavens It’s Not Code Taupe.’ ... Lacey is intelligent, insightful, and spunky—a thoroughly likable, if quirky, investigator. . . . Interesting plot twists.”
“The supporting characters—a hairdresser, a fortuneteller, and a lawyer with a jones for conspiracy theories—are humorous accomplices to Lacey’s sleuthing. It’s a pleasure to watch Lacey, stunningly attired in various vintage outfits, skillfully uncover what looks like a deadly deception. Clever wordplay, snappy patter, and intriguing clues make this politics-meets-high-fashion whodunit a cut above the ordinary.”
is full of fashion tips, vintage fashion lore, and long lost romances. Compelling. . . . Lacey is a spunky heroine and is very self-assured as she carries off her vintage looks with much aplomb.”
—The Mystery Reader
“Ellen Byerrum is a very talented writer with an offbeat sense of humor and talent for creating quirky and eccentric characters that will have readers laughing at their antics. There are some very good fashion tips spread throughout. . . . A great beach read.”
—The Best Reviews
“Cut-wrong hair mingles with cutthroat Washington, D.C., in Ellen Byerrum’s rippling debut. Peppered with girlfriends you’d love to have, smoldering romance you can’t resist, and Beltway insider insights you’ve got to read,
adds a crazy twist to the concept of ‘capital murder.’ Bubbles may have to visit.”
—Sarah Strohmeyer, Agatha Award-winning author of
Bubbles A Broad
“Ellen Byerrum tailors her debut mystery with a sharp murder plot, entertaining fashion commentary, and gutsy characters. I’ll look forward to the next installment.”
—Nancy J. Cohen, author of the Bad Hair Day mysteries
“Chock full of colorful, often hilarious characters. . . . Lacey herself has a delightful catty wit. The book is interspersed with gems from her
Crimes of Fashion
columns. . . . A load of stylish fun even if you don’t know anything or care to know anything about fashion.”
—Scripps Howard News Service
“Lacey Smithsonian is no fashionista—she’s a ’40s starlet trapped in style-free D.C., with a feminist agenda, a cadre of delightfully insane friends, and a knack for stumbling on corpses. . . . Lacey slays and sashays thru Washington politics, scandal, and Fourth Estate slime, while uncovering whodunit, and dunit and dunit again.”
—Chloe Green, author of the Dallas O’Connor Fashion mysteries
“Lacey Smithsonian skewers Washington with style in this new mystery series.
is a shear delight.”
—Elaine Viets, national bestselling author of
Dying to Call You
Published by New American Library, a division of
Penguin Group (USA) Inc., 375 Hudson Street,
New York, New York 10014, USA
Penguin Group (Canada), 90 Eglinton Avenue East, Suite 700, Toronto,
Ontario M4P 2Y3, Canada (a division of Pearson Penguin Canada Inc.)
Penguin Books Ltd., 80 Strand, London WC2R 0RL, England
Penguin Ireland, 25 St. Stephen’s Green, Dublin 2,
Ireland (a division of Penguin Books Ltd.)
Penguin Group (Australia), 250 Camberwell Road, Camberwell, Victoria 3124,
Australia (a division of Pearson Australia Group Pty. Ltd.)
Penguin Books India Pvt. Ltd., 11 Community Centre, Panchsheel Park,
New Delhi - 110 017, India
Penguin Group (NZ), cnr Airborne and Rosedale Roads, Albany,
Auckland 1310, New Zealand (a division of Pearson New Zealand Ltd.)
Penguin Books (South Africa) (Pty.) Ltd., 24 Sturdee Avenue,
Rosebank, Johannesburg 2196, South Africa
Penguin Books Ltd., Registered Offices:
80 Strand, London WC2R 0RL, England
First published by Signet, an imprint of New American Library,
a division of Penguin Group (USA) Inc.
First Printing, August 2005
Copyright © Ellen Byerrum, 2005
All rights reserved
REGISTERED TRADEMARK—MARCA REGISTRADA
eISBN : 978-1-101-11045-4
Without limiting the rights under copyright reserved above, no part of this publication may be reproduced, stored in or introduced into a retrieval system, or transmitted, in any form, or by any means (electronic, mechanical, photocopying, recording, or otherwise), without the prior written permission of both the copyright owner and the above publisher of this book.
This is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places, and incidents either are the product of the author’s imagination or are used fictitiously, and any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, business establishments, events, or locales is entirely coincidental.
The publisher does not have any control over and does not assume any responsibility for author or third-party Web sites or their content.
The scanning, uploading, and distribution of this book via the Internet or via any other means without the permission of the publisher is illegal and punishable by law. Please purchase only authorized electronic editions, and do not participate in or encourage electronic piracy of copyrighted materials. Your support of the author’s rights is appreciated.
This book is dedicated to the teaching Sisters of St. Joseph of Carondelet.
The process of getting a book published still sometimes seems like a mystery to me. But one thing is certain: It would never get far without the help of a large cast of characters.
I would like to thank my sisters, Barbara Price, Jacqueline Byerrum, and Diane Yeoman, for their good humor. It is only fair to point out that Lacey Smithsonian’s sister, Cherise, is not even remotely based on any or all of my sisters, although they all have a fair share of perkiness, as well as other fine qualities. I thank them, and my brother and sister-in-law, Jim and Mary Byerrum, for their sibling support and solidarity. I also want to point out that Lacey’s mother bears no relation to my late mother, Doloris Achatz Byerrum, who was intelligent and fun, had wonderful taste, and was a great cook. I will always be grateful for her wit and wisdom—and love.
I am very grateful to Lloyd Rose, who has listened to me chatter through countless lunches and helped me find answers to questions of plot and character.
Thanks also go to my agent, Don Maass, and to my editor, Martha Bushko, and Serena Jones at Signet.
And of course, to my husband, Bob Williams, who honors me with his keen insight, thoughtful critique, and ability to see comedy in the darkest moments, when inspiration has gone on strike and nothing but hard work will do, I owe so much more than thanks. But don’t worry; I’ll tell him all about that later.
It was a sign, all right.
Lacey Smithsonian wasn’t sure what it meant. Her thoughts were momentarily blocked by soul-shattering thunder. And the lightning bolt that struck the neon Krispy Kreme doughnut sign had also knocked her flat on her butt. From the rain-soaked ground, she watched in horror as the steel-girded doughnut monolith wavered to and fro before crashing down on Harlan Wiedemeyer’s brand-new Volvo. The Volvo she had stepped out of less than one minute ago.
I ask for a sign and what do I get? A giant neon sign of doom.
Trujillo’s words came back to her: “Watch out. Bad things happen when you hang out with that guy.”
The “guy” in question was Harlan Wiedemeyer himself, who had insisted on giving Lacey a ride home from her office to Old Town Alexandria, and then abruptly detoured on a whim to the Krispy Kreme doughnut capital of Northern Virginia.
Wiedemeyer? A jinx? But surely he couldn’t be blamed for the storm that brought the lightning that struck the sign that stood on Route 1 that fell on top of the car that Harlan drove? Could he?
she wondered. She wiped the dripping curtain of hair out of her face, struggled to her feet, and turned her attention to Wiedemeyer, just emerging from an oily mud puddle.
The little man shook his fist at the sky and shouted, “Missed me!” His thinning brown hair stuck to his head, perspiration mixing with the raindrops. His round belly gave evidence of his love of doughnuts. Some thirty-odd calorie-packed years of doughnuts, Lacey guessed. He looked as if misery hugged his shoulders like a well-worn sweater. He turned to Lacey. Out of his thunderstruck agony, Lacey glimpsed a sliver of triumph.
“Missed me again! Hey, Smithsonian! Did you see that?” A maniacal grin lit his face in the next flash of lightning. “Why, that sign would have taken our heads clean off if we’d been one minute later! How many poor bastards, do you suppose, die just like that? It’s a sign. That’s what it is. We’re the lucky bastards today! Let’s go get some doughnuts.”
Lacey could see shapes swarming behind the shop’s steamy windows, faces pressed against the glass, staring in shock at their beloved HOT DOUGHNUTS NOW sign, which was now balanced upside down on the crunched roof of the Volvo. The lightning strike had darkened all the lights in the parking lot, but had somehow missed the shop itself. It was still bright and cheery. Lacey shook the excess water off her trench coat. It didn’t help. She was sore and soaked to the skin. But hot coffee and a hot glazed puff of calorie heaven were calling to her. She thought she had never needed a doughnut more in her entire life.
“You know, Wiedemeyer, most people would take this as a sign to stop eating doughnuts,” Lacey said.
“Stop eating doughnuts? Why, that would just be crazy.” He held the door for her. A wave of doughnut aroma washed over them.
Harlan Wiedemeyer was a new
Eye Street Observer
reporter who covered what Lacey’s newsroom called the “death-and-dismemberment” beat. He relished telling the world every day how some “poor bastard” died in a freak accident or grotesque workplace disaster. Untold poor bastards drowned in vats of chocolate, were ground up in the gears of heavy machinery, were turned into sausage. So when he escaped the blind wrath of the wayward Krispy Kreme doughnut sign, Harlan Wiedemeyer knew one thing: He was one hell of a lucky bastard.
Lacey Smithsonian, on the other hand, didn’t feel quite so graced. Tony Trujillo, her buddy on the cops beat, had warned her not to ride home with Wiedemeyer because he was a Jonah, a jinx, a bringer of bad luck, and if she accepted his offer, woe betide her. She told Trujillo it was a malicious lie, a superstition, a remnant of Dark Ages thinking. And not an hour later she had barely escaped the Krispy Kreme doughnut sign of doom.
Wiedemeyer strikes again,
people would say.