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Dating Dead Men: A Novel Paperback – March 15, 2005

3.8 out of 5 stars 62 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Even Stephanie Plum's antics will seem sedate after readers make the acquaintance of Los Angeles's own Wollie Shelley, greeting card designer and small business owner. Wollie is dating 40 men in 60 days as part of a research project for a bestselling radio personality; the $5,000 fee could help her struggling store, "Wollie's Welcome! Greetings." In particular, Wollie's worried about inspections from national headquarters, who want to ensure that her franchise is up to standard. Her already full plate gets loaded up further when her paranoid schizophrenic brother, P.B., who resides at a mental hospital called Rio Pescado, phones to tell her he's witnessed a murder. The last thing Wollie wants is to call the police, so she dashes off to Rio Pescado. On the way she finds a dead body. At the hospital she picks up a charismatic stranger, "Doc," who's on the run, and Wollie can't help getting herself mixed up in his troubles as well. Juggling dates, avoiding the bad guys on Doc's trail, trying to keep her store up to snuff and figuring out what to feed the ferret Doc left in her care have Wollie hopping at a pace reminiscent of the best 1930s screwball film comedies. Kozak has struck gold first time out with a wacky, high-octane plot and characters to match.
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved. --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.

From Booklist

Poor Wollie Shelley. She's desperately trying to make sure her card store, Wollie's Welcome, will stay in business. It figures her schizophrenic brother, P. B., would call while the store inspector was visiting and claim he's witnessed a murder. Wollie drives to the hospital where P. B. is, and sure enough, she stumbles across a dead body. She also runs into a man disguised as a doctor, who uses her to help him escape from the hospital. Only after they've eluded hospital security does "Doc" mention he's being pursued by the Mafia, although he won't say why. Wollie wants to help him, but his problems are starting to take over her life. She still has the store, and she's also participating in a dating program run by a radio personality, but it's hard for Wollie to focus on the men she's going out with when the Mafia is dogging her every move. Worse yet, she might actually be falling for Doc. Kozak's debut is a lively, funny romp for fans of lighthearted mysteries. Kristine Huntley
Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.

Product Details

  • Paperback: 352 pages
  • Publisher: Broadway Books (March 15, 2005)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0767921232
  • ISBN-13: 978-0767921237
  • Product Dimensions: 5.2 x 0.7 x 8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 8 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 3.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (62 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,199,298 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Top Customer Reviews

Format: Hardcover
I was introduced to this book when a review compared it to Janet Evanovich's Stephanie Plum novels. Like those novels, Dating Dead Men is humorous, has a naive and struggling heroine and has an intelligent mystery. The Plum novels are set in the down-to-earth Trenton, NJ. Ms. Kozak puts her heroine (the unlikely named Mary Wollstonecraft Shelley - "Wollie") in the ritz and glamor of LA.
Well, almost in the ritz and glamor - she's more on the outskirts, struggling as manager of a Welcome! Greetings card store. Alarmed by a phonecall from her brother, a resident at a local mental hospital she hurries to him, only to discover a dead body in the hospital's driveway. She quickly becomes entangled with an unlikely "doctor" Gomez Gomez and his ferret.
Before long Wollie is swept into a mystery involing the mafia, strange Swedes, the three 'C's and much more besides. In the midst of all this she's trying to date 40 guys in little more than 40 days for "research" and has to impress the unimpressible Mr. Bundt who has the power to upgrade her store to Willkommen status. Needless to say, things become adequately complicated!
Harley's biggest strength is in her colorful characters (sometimes a little too colorful - nobody would really have a name like Wollie!). They ooze life onto every page with a rich coating of LA character on top. Many people make an appearance in this book. At some points it becomes difficult to keep track of all the relationships between the mafiosi. This isn't a fault with the writing - our heroine is having trouble herself and often provides some useful summaries.
Harley says in her afterword that this book took a long time to get written. Let's hope the next one doesn't take as long but is just as good. This is highly recommended.
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Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
The biggest complaint I have about this book is that I'm finished. I decided to pick up one of Harley Jane Kozak's romantic comedy mysteries on the high recommendation of Entertainment Weekly. From their review, I expected that the book would be competently written. I didn't expect it to make me laugh out loud or to make me care for her characters quite so much.

In that, I can see, I differ from some of Amazon's other reviewers.

This book is definitely a hybrid, which may make it a challenge to fans of the traditional mystery. It has many qualities of the romantic comedy. In that guise, Kozak reads most to me like MaryJanice Davidson (without the vampires). Of the other mystery writers I read, Kozak reminds me most of Joan Hess, particularly with Hess' Claire Malloy mysteries. But we're not dealing with the slow meticulous gathering of clues common to the mystery genre--and which for many of us is the primary pleasure of the reading of that type. From the start, this novel is a joyride, with some interesting scenery along the way. Less Ellery Queen. More Inspector Clouseau. But without all the bumbling...and with a lot more focus on dating and shoes.

Our heroine, Wollie Shelley, is warm and believable--larger than life, but--in my opinion--true to it. Her relationship with her mentally ill brother (which propels the story) feels genuine, not exploitative. Some of his symptoms may be cliche, but he is not--he is highly sympathetic. Wollie's career goals and dreams feel integral, not window-dressing tossed in to simulate character depth. As with many comic characters, she is often impulsive, but her impulsiveness doesn't seem contrived simply to move the plot along. Her behavior seems of a piece with her personality.

I plan to pick up the second Wollie Shelley mystery immediately. If it's even half as much fun as this one, Kozak will have earned herself a loyal fan.
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Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Wollie Shelley is a mess. Her life is overflowing with one thing after another. She is a greeting card artist, is working on owning her own Greeting Card store, is dealing with a group of off kilter frinds (very, loyal friends), a brother in a mental hospital and an uncle who maybe should be. Throw into this that she is part of a dating project in which she has to date 40 men in 60 days. She has plenty to do.

While on a late night visit to the mental hospital to take her brother aluminum foil (read the book to find out why :)), she first sees a dead body on the way to the hospital lying in the road. Since she fears that her brother has knowledge of it, or may have something to do with it, she takes no immediate action. While at the hospital, she is taken somewhat hostage by a man pretending to be a doctor who is actually running from the mob, and has some knowledge of why the guy is dead in the road.

What follows is a completely amusing and engrossing tale of how this all works out in a really fresh new way of doing so. I found certain elements just a little far fetched (can't tell you what they are without giving something important away), I still found it a very good read and am currently reading the second in the series.

I found Wollie to be a fun herione with a lot of very real elements about her. You can't help but like her and look forward to what she might do next.

I highly recommend this book. I did recognize that the author was an actress and do know who she is. I don't see why some have made that an issue. I think her work as an author and as an actress stand alone and speak for themselves. I recommend her both as an author and an actress.
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