Not every gumshoe hits the street with as much style as Iris Thorne. As the heroine of Dianne G. Pugh's books "Cold Call" and "Slow Squeeze.", the former Downtown stockbroker tries to look her best, even with a killer on the loose. But when a thug tears up her condo, she discovers that detective work can be hell on a girl's wardrobe.
The walk-in closet was three feet deep in clothes, shoes, purses, belts, hats, and luggage. Quelle soiree. Her new Anne Klein suit lay on top of the pile. She held her breath as she picked it up. It wasn't slashed. At least they hadn't been sick enough to slash her new Anne Klein.
Traditionally, mystery novels pay more attention to plot twists than designer labels. The genre works best, though, when intrigue combines with sensual description. A handful of recent West Coast mysteries--by women writers, with women protagonists--shows that clothes tell a story all their own.
Irene Kelly, the crime-solving journalist in Jan Burke's "Dear Irene," is the kind of woman who hangs around the house in old pajamas. Meg Lacey, the Vancouver P.I. in Elisabeth Bowers' "No Forwarding Address," realizes that the very next page could bring a chase scene. She dresses accordingly.