If your favorite reality show is all about skimpy costumes and spray tans, you’re going to love Ella Barrick’s The Homicide Hustle.
Stacy Graysin is co-owner of Graysin Motion, a dance studio in Washington, D.C., that has more debt than students. When a national reality program called Ballroom with the B-Listers chooses Stacy and one of her instructors to participate in the season’s competition, it seems like a perfect way to make some extra cash and get free publicity for the studio. But just like the glitz and glamour of television, the golden opportunity hides some ugly flaws.
While Stacy is thrilled to be dancing with former teen idol Zane Savage, the dream-come-true quickly devolves into a nightmare when one of the show’s producers is murdered. Stacy is already well-known to the local police, having been a prime suspect in another murder just months earlier. This time around, however, she’s playing the role of sleuth, and there’s a whole cast of suspects: handsome and charming Zane; his overbearing mother; owners of the rival dance studios; B-Listers who desperately want to win the competition in order to effect their comebacks, and a never-ending series of crew members.
Barrick’s smooth writing and complex characters make it easy to overlook Stacy’s slim reason for getting involved in the investigation. (Stacy’s ballroom partner Vitaly Voloshin, in particular, is cuter than a Mark Ballas jive.) Barrick gives equal time to suspects’ negative and positive qualities, and she throws in just enough behind-the-scenes details to ensure that readers will feel as if they’ve stepped into the backstage area of that popular program. In the end, The Homicide Hustle delivers a surprising but believable motive for the murder and a satisfying denouement for mystery fans.