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Dating is Murder    by Harley Jane Kozak order for
Dating is Murder
by Harley Jane Kozak
Order:  USA  Can
Doubleday, 2005 (2005)
Hardcover, e-Book
* * *   Reviewed by Theresa Ichino

Wollstonecraft Shelley has a lot on her plate. Her chosen craft (designing unorthodox greeting cards) does not bring in nearly enough money to live on, let alone pay for her brother's expensive treatment and therapy. As a result, Wollie also house-sits and is currently painting a frog mural for a friend. And she has great hopes for the (tacky) reality program for which she is a contestant, Biological Clock. Although Wollie has no interest in becoming a star, she covets the medical coverage that is part of the prize; it would assure her brother's situation.

Concern for a young friend is added to Wollie's already crowded schedule. Annika, a German au pair is as energetic as Wollie herself. She was tutoring Wollie in math (our heroine is desperately hoping to make up this gaping hole in her academic record), but disappeared. Or so her despairing mother tells Wollie, in a long-distance call from Germany. Understandably, Annika's mother is frantic - who knows what befell her daughter, alone in a foreign country?

When she begins to ask around, both on the set of Biological Clock, where Annika volunteered behind the scenes, and in Annika's private circles, Wollie is unsettled to find that the au pair's sunny exterior seems to hide sinister secrets. Strange men begin to follow Wollie, and she is warned to keep her nose out of it, a course of action she is incapable of following. Still smarting from a romantic relationship that recently ended, she is astonished by her attraction to one of the strangers.

Dating is Murder is a well-crafted and fast-moving tale. Wollie is an appealing and attractive protagonist. Surrounded by all the silliness and hysteria that attend a reality TV show, she keeps her eyes firmly on what is important to her: family and friends. A tall and voluptuous blonde, Wollie is unimpressed with her appearance and compares herself unfavourably with the other contestants on her reality program. (Her lack of ego is explained when one meets her toxic mother.)

Kozak peoples her tale with several well-limned characters, including Wollie's bigger-than-life friends, Joey and Fredreeq. The latter know the film world well and are ripe for any adventure that will help a friend, as shown in some of the escapades in the story. The author is a well-known actor, and her familiarity with the Hollywood scene lends an easy authority to the setting. She also has a sly sense of humour that enlivens the madcap antics of Wollie and her friends and skewers certain aspects of the entertainment world. In short, Dating is Murder is a lively, amusing read, with an unexpected and chilling ending. This is Kozak's second book. I plan to go hunting for the first and will await subsequent tales with anticipation.

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