I’m continuing to revisit some of the most popular and recommended Cozy Mystery Series. Today I’ll be discussing Melissa Bourbon‘s Magical Dressmaking Mystery Series, and to do that, I’ve re-read the first book in the series, Pleating for Mercy.
The basic story structure of Pleating for Mercy isn’t necessarily the most original for a Cozy – when Harlow Cassidy inherits her great-grandmother’s house, she decides to give up her big city fashion designer job in New York to return home to small town Bliss, Texas, and set up the small dressmaking shop she always dreamed of. Naturally, an old family friend is quickly implicated in a murder, and Harlow needs sets out to clear her name.
While the overall plot of the novel may not be the most innovative I’ve ever seen in a Cozy Mystery, Melissa Bourbon does particularly well is introducing an interesting cast with different characters without necessarily going overboard in making them seem “zany”. I personally am sometimes put off by too many “quirky” characters in a series, and upon hearing of the protagonist’s mother being able to grow plants in a supernatural fashion and her grandmother being a goat-whisperer, I was at first afraid that they would quickly cross the line into just being quirky for the sake of quirk. However, this didn’t turn out to be the case – while these features were certainly present in the Cassidy women, they weren’t necessarily their only defining characteristics.
The magical elements to the Cozy are also implemented well. The magical abilities of the Cassidy women are introduced in an interesting way, by discussing how their ancestor, Butch Cassidy, wished for a charmed life for his descendants, and every member of the family has possessed some magical charm ever since. Attaching the magical attributes of the series to a story that most people will easily remember (most people being at least vaguely aware of Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid, through the classic movie if nothing else), they become both easier to remember and more interesting.
The dressmaking elements of the Magical Dressmaking series are also largely successful. I’m not particularly knowledgeable about fashion, but even I was able to end up with reasonable mental images of the dresses that Harlow considers making for her clientele >>> though I’ll admit I did have to look up more than a few terms to make sure I was getting the right image in my head!
Overall, Pleating for Mercy is an interesting read for anyone who is a fan of fashion themed Cozies with a supernatural element, or anyone interested in a Cozy set in small town Texas. (I’ll admit, as a long-term Texas resident, I do have something of a soft spot for the state.)
If you’re interested in checking out some of the other entries I’ve written on fan favorites, be sure to check out the page on Most Popular & Recommended Cozy Mystery Series.
P.S. I should have mentioned that the author is now writing the Bread Shop Mystery Series (as Winnie Archer)…