Thursday, June 14, 2012

Shattered Silk

Shattered Silk, by Barbara Michaels

Publisher's Blurb:
Karen Nevitt has brought new life to old, abandoned things. Her vintage clothing collection, nestled away in Washington, D.C.'s picturesque Georgetown, features exquisite designer originals from decades past. But there is something deadly sewn into the lace and delicate fabrics she has—clues to a forgotten mystery that is pulling Karen into a dark and terrifying place. A secret once locked away in old trunks and dusty attics is crying out for justice, and only she can make things right. But a killer still lurking in the shadows has decided that the truth must remain hidden . . . and Karen Nevitt must die.  

General Impression:

It was fine-- a generally pleasant read.  Great literature?  No.  Dated?  Somewhat.  Enjoyable?  Certainly.

I liked the main characters and found the story interesting.  I think I'm a sucker for stories about people starting small businesses-- especially when it's a cute little shop.  I could happily have read more details about their plans, even though I know very little (and care even less) about high fashion, new or old.  (The vintage aspect, though, does catch my fancy...)

The mystery was... eh, okay, I guess.  This was another case where the title and cover sound/look much more mysterious and foreboding than most of the story merits.  When "all was revealed", I felt a little disappointed.  ("Is that all?")  But fortunately I enjoyed the bulk of the book enough to not really care that the mystery aspect wasn't absolutely mind-blowing.

I'll definitely continue to read more by Barbara Michaels.  Her work's not perfect (what is?), but she's more suited to my tastes than a lot of other (reasonably) contemporary authors.  Easy, relaxing reading.

More Detailed Comments:

--  At first, I was struck by some of the similarities between this and the last Barbara Michaels novel I read (Into the Darkness).  In both, a woman returns to a former home and works in a shop where someone she knows already works (or in this case, owns).  This person is a female so-called friend who is entirely unsympathetic.  What jewelry was to Into the Darkness, vintage clothing is to Shattered Silk.    ...But admittedly, the similarities soon faded.  I found Karen (heroine of this novel) much more likeable than Meg (from the other).

--  Of course there were a couple of references to Egypt/mummies.  It's required.  ;o)  "...Mrs. MacDougal's face-- which, as her son had once remarked, resembled that of one of the handsomer Egyptian mummies..."

--  I loved Mrs. Mac's explanation of how it felt to try on her wedding dress, however-many long years later:  "'Did you ever read She?'"  ..."'Immortal woman, Mrs. Mac explained.  'Bathed in the fire of Life-- two thousand years old-- superbly beautiful.  Went back into the fire, reversed the process-- aged two thousand years in five minutes.  Nasty.  Felt like that myself when I tried on this dress.'"  (And now I'm curious about She.  Barbara Michaels has a habit of mentioning books and authors in her novels.  I like it when authors do that.)

--  "Chichi clever".  I'd never heard the word "chichi" before, but Kindle told me what it meant.  (Deliberately chic.)   Thanks again, built-in Kindle dictionary!  (It is pretty helpful.)

--  Rob puzzles me.  I don't think I've ever known / read about / seen on TV or movies any male person or character who acts so... "fabulous" ;o)... and yet apparently is some sort of ladies' man.  I find it bizarre and unlikely, but maybe that's just me...

--  The "Congressman" element?  Meh.  Fortunately, politics didn't come into play much (just one reference to Mark as a liberal-- of course), but still... The whole idea of our "hero" being a Congressman just turns me off.  (I don't find politicians to be terribly attractive or romantic figures, as a rule.)

--  The Bell Witch?  Never heard of it. "The Stratford case"?  Nope, not that one, either...

--  "'You sure know a lot of fancy words,' Cheryl said."  Um...  I like Cheryl, but sometimes it felt like Michaels made her a little too unrefined in comparison to her brother.  Why was Mark not portrayed as slightly bumpkin-ish, when Cheryl goes around saying things like that? 

--  Conversely, some of the other characters speak too "fancy" (as Cheryl might say (g)).  How many homicide detectives do you know who go around quoting romantic poetry?  (Or men in general, for that matter!)

--  I was happy that Karen started out slightly overweight and "frumpy"-- but of course I knew she would begin to change for the better over the course of the novel-- and that's good, but... I don't know.  It was frustrating that she so easily dropped pounds and apparently transformed into a beauty.  Why can't a heroine ever be average?  Or just "pretty"?  Why must they all be beautiful?  ...It's just annoying sometimes.  (And it's one of the reasons I adore Jane Eyre so much.  She's physically plain through the whole thing.  She doesn't drop twenty pounds-- or get contact lenses-- or straighten her hair-- or get a new wardrobe-- and magically turn into a stunning beauty.) 

--  "All I had to do was get fat and sloppy... Her mouth dropped open as the truth dawned-- the answer to a question the psychologist has asked weeks ago.  That was why she had let herself go.  She didn't have the guts to come right out and tell Jack she wanted to leave him; she didn't even have the courage to admit it to herself.  So she had pushed him into taking the fatal step, by turning herself into a careless, unattractive frump."   ...Um, excuse me?  Ugh.  I guess we're meant to realize that Jack behaved like a cad and Karen's change in appearance just accelerated things-- not that a little weight gain and unattractive clothing is a legitimate excuse for a man cheating on his wife... but still.  That just irks me intensely.

SPOILERy Observations:

--  More appearance issues!  After Shreve is revealed as a Very Bad Guy (as opposed to just a b***h), we are treated to a description of how unattractive s/he is without her make-up.  What's the point of that?   It seemed rather silly and juvenile. 

Well, that's that. 
Now to figure out how to label this.  I always have a hard time labeling books like this one...