An amiable heroine, likable characters and a teasingly menacing plot shift this mystery into a sweet ride on an open highway. Persia Vanderbilt can kick butt with the best, but her generally sensible and generous nature is nearly irresistible -- as is the cozy charm of her small town.

Persia is just trying to get through the holidays. The exclusive beauty spa she and her aunt Florence own in Gulf Harbor, Wash., Venus Envy, is booming as everyone gets ready for the Thanksgiving gala. While there are some glitches on the horizon -- including being stalked by her mentally unbalanced ex-boyfriend -- Persia's life is taking a turn for the better, especially her love life with sexy entrepreneur Killian.

Then her friend Lisa goes missing on the night of the gala. Pressed by the missing woman's sister to help out with the investigation, Persia digs into local secrets and helps her best friend deal with an interfering mother-in-law. (Berkley Prime Crime, Jan., 272 pp., $6.99)
Reviewed by: 
Pat Cooper