Cohen’s follow-up to Permed to Death (1999) is about as echt hamishe, and as distinctive, as Levittown; although she uses (or misuses) a Yiddish phrase every ten pages or so, the standard-issue plot and characters could have been shipped to Marla Shore’s Fort Lauderdale from any gutsy-girl-who-pokes-her-nose-where-it doesn’t-belong-and-gets-herself-into-trouble-and-romance classic. Marla’s putting her life together by working as a hairdresser, having just escaped psychic ruin at the hands of her controlling ex-husband Stan. Someone (in this case, her wealthy cousin Cynthia) asks her to help with a fund–raiser (in this case, a Taste of the World cuisine event for the Ocean Guard, a South Florida environmental group). Bad things start happening to the chefs who volunteer. So Cynthia takes her to a board meeting to see whether anyone at Ocean Guard is doing anything to draw fire. There, she meets savvy businesswoman Babs Winrow, smarmy politician Digby Raines, arrogant surgeon Russ Taylor, respectable banker Darren Shapiro, malevolent funeral director Stefano Barletti, easygoing accountant David Newberg, and Ben Kline, a lawyer so abrasive that he’s killed the next day. Naturally, Cynthia asks her to investigate, and naturally, sexy police detective Dalton Vail (whose very presence makes her blood sizzle) asks her not to. So, naturally, she does. Aside from almost getting killed, she learns benign secrets from everyone’s past, identifies the murderer, and cuts and colors all the major characters’ hair.
If you crave a charismatic heroine with a touch of Yiddishkeit, skip this one and pray for Marissa Piesman’s return.