meier“A solid month of baking and chasing bargains and wrapping and decorating and secret keeping, and it all came down to this…” is the first sentence in this book,  and a lot of us can relate. “This” is a messy house, family members getting on each other’s nerves, and bills to pay.

Lucy Stone and her daughter Elizabeth are going to escape from the post-Christmas doldrums by taking advantage of a three-day mother-daughter makeover Elizabeth won in an essay contest.  Jolie magazine is paying for travel costs and the hotel, as well as furnishing the contestants with new outfits and haircuts with a famous stylist, and one contestant pair will even go home with $10,000 in prize money. They head to New York City for a whirlwind of beauty treatments and big city pleasures, including front row seats at the taping of a TV talk show. They meet their fellow contestants — mother/daughter pairs from all over the country — and feel great about their new looks.

But are the strange interactions among the magazine staff just the difference between New York City manners and those of her little Maine town? When the beauty editor dies, Lucy has to wonder. When Elizabeth ends up in the emergency room, Lucy has to do more than wonder. Can she figure out what’s really going on at Jolie before there are any more deaths?

Long-buried secrets turn up as Lucy investigates, the FBI gets involved, and the plot keeps thickening. Everything gets tied up at the end of the book, though, in  surprising way.

This novel includes characters from earlier books in the series, but new readers won’t have trouble keeping up. This is a cozy mystery offering a peek into big city media, perfect for the holiday weekend.