Dorothy Howell

Dorothy Howell
Handbags and Homicide

“It was a Notorious day,” Haley decides on looking in her closet.

As Imelda Marcos is to shoes, so Haley Randolph is to purses. Clutches, hobos, satchels, totes, crossbodies—you name it, she has just the designer goods for every occasion and mood. She’s what you might call a purse aficionado. Maven. Enthusiast.

Make that junkie. “Bring out a handbag. Any handbag. Just hold it up and I can tell you who made it, the style, the color of the lining, how many interior pockets and zippers,” she boasts. Naturally, Haley can spot a knockoff at fifty paces.

This superpower notwithstanding, she’s working a retail job that pays enough to keep her in Frappuccinos but not in Ferragamos. And when the Holt’s Department Store assistant manager is found dead on the stockroom floor, “I’d kill for that purse” becomes more than a figure of speech.

Haley gets involved, because she has a knack for being where she shouldn’t be and doing what she should never, ever do—like going out on a date with a murder suspect. It’s Howell’s light touch that keeps you from wanting to shake the sometimes ditzy fashionista and tell her to get a grip. It’s hard to be too annoyed with her when you’re laughing out loud.

And whatever her faults, Haley is endearingly gifted at thinking on her feet. Asked to explain being late to work—again—she glibly invents a story about swerving to avoid a puppy that was loose on the freeway. Of course she had to rescue the poor thing and bring it home; she couldn’t just leave it there to get run over, could she? Her boss is completely taken in, to the point of asking, “What did you name it?” With a straight face, Haley ad-libs, “Pancake.”

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