Zac Bissonnette is releasing his debut cozy mystery, A Killing in Costumes, at a time when the current publishing marketplace is celebrating diversity of all kinds. Through planned intent or lucky happenstance, Bissonnette’s novel capitalizes on this trend with what is essentially a vintage postcard sent directly to the imaginary intersection of Hollywood Boulevard and Castro Street. While the air is scented with the mix of lightly fragrant Old Hollywood perfume and the faint hint of queer cologne throughout, Bisonnette’s characters manage to hit the sweet spot between being too stereotypical to be interesting and being too unique to be believable. Lead characters, Jay and Cindy – as well as others in the cast – are people you want to know and people you want to be friends with.
Jay Allen and Cindy Cooper are former soap opera stars who once hid their sexuality with a sham marriage of convenience. Years later, they remain friends and co-own Hooray for Hollywood – a movie memorabilia shop in the heart of Palm Springs. With no customers and an out-of-date inventory, the recent death of diva Yana Tosh could provide the lifeblood the store needs to survive. Their stiffest competition for obtaining the artifacts is another wealthy auction-house owner, but when he becomes a literal stiff – and Jay and Cindy become the prime suspects in his murder – the treasure hunt for coveted memorabilia must take a back seat for the time being.
While the queer aspects of the plot add a freshness to the proceedings, the bulk of A Killing in Costumes celebrates the standard cozy tropes readers know and love. Jay and Cindy become amateur investigators interviewing a host of potential suspects – all of whom have motives for the crime. As is fitting for this setup, there is so much humor throughout this quick read. At times, it almost feels as though a murder has been added to an episode of a long-running and popular sitcom…a show you would most assuredly run and tell all your friends to watch.
Zac Bissonnette chooses to tell the story using dual points of view, which not only adds variety to the cozy genre – which are typically first-person, one POV affairs – but also allows for some clever deployment of red herrings and diversions to keep reader’s guessing right up until the final reveal. Movie fanatics will also find loads of fascinating tidbits of knowledge gleaned from the history of the silver screen. Bissonnette inherently knows when to insert these nuggets of information, adding verisimilitude to the entire endeavor.
Whether you are coming to A Killing in Costumes for the retro Hollywood vibe, the lore of classic memorabilia, or the uniquely centralized LGBTQ+ characters, you will end up staying for the captivating and surprising mystery at the core of the story. A Killing in Costumes is the first in a proposed “Hollywood Treasures” series, so expect more escapades from Jay, Cindy and their friends in the near future.
Disclaimer: A print galley of this title was provided to BOLO Books by the publisher. No promotion was promised and the above is an unbiased review of the novel.