First in the series"The new Wild West, a great and funny whodunit."
"I wouldn't have minded so much being naked on the cover of the National Enquirer if I'd been thinner," says Santa Bianca Chief of Detectives Lilly Bennett.
Caught with a California judge by a sleazy photographer and threatened with (full) exposure in the tabloids, Lilly calls it quits with her lover and her job and heads back home to Wyoming, where men are men, women wear cowboy boots and murder is right up her alley.
Lilly intends to start a high-tech international security firm that will link Roundup, Wyoming to the four corners of the world. Then she lands her first case right in the neighborhood. Walter Butterfield, the richest, meanest man in town, gets a surprise at his birthday bash - his head blown off by a shotgun. Lilly's job is to find out who did it: his troubled daughter Ellen, who is discovered holding the weapon; his loud-voiced, big-bosomed second wife, Pamela, who isn't even smudging her mascara with a tear; his mistress, a six-foot-tall rodeo trick rider, who is bawling her eyes out; or none of the above.
As wisecracking as Susan Isaacs and as tough as Sue Grafton, Marne Davis Kellogg serves up a juicy Western-style whodunit in Bad Manners. And she delivers both the sizzle and the steak: fine mystery, first-rate satire, and great fun.
Bad Manners is out of print, but copies may be available through your used book retailer.
Second in the series
"Holding fast to her good humor and down-to-earth attitude, Lilly endures harsh weather and stuffy social pretensions to solve the crime."
The grand old town of Roundup is going to hell in a handbasket, according to Lilly Bennett's mother, because two ladies intend to wear trousers to the symphony gala. No matter, the holiday season is in high gear, and Lilly thinks the glitzy Children's Hospital Christmas fund-raiser is going to be a ball. Instead, it becomes funeral.
Dead is Baroness Rita von Singen und Mengen. Overdressed and grossly overweight, the baroness used to be plain old Rita Haye, as in Haye Tool and Bit, before her daddy bought her a German aristocrat named Heinrich. Rita and her husband have hosted the social event of the season, and except for Rita's gold boots and gold Stetson, there's nothing faux about the party. It was a jammed-to-the-rafters good time...until the butler found the corpse.
Now Lilly is determined to discover who put the bullet in Rita's pudgy forehead. Heading her list should be handsome husband Heinrich, who had the most to gain (a large fortune) and the most to lose (a truly frightful wife). But then why would he hire Lilly to find the murderer? Lilly's suspicious mind turns to the women who are practically killing themselves, and maybe each other, to become Heinrich's next bride. When another lady bites the dust during what passes for a debutante ball, logic tells Lilly she's on the right track. But her gut instincts point to a more lonesome trail: toward a killer—and a showdown—that could leave her dead in her boots.
Curtsey is out of print, but copies may be available through your used book retailer.
Third in the series
"Lilly Bennett is Auntie Mame with a license to carry."
—The Virginian-Pilot Ledger Star
By turns audacious and lionhearted, tender and vulnerable, Lilly Bennett, a no-longer-so-young Wyoming belle with degrees in criminology and toxicology, is a private investigator and the marshal of Bennett's Fort, a town owned literally lock, stock and barrel by her cousin. Decked out in Chanel pumps and St. Laurent suits, Lilly is an unlikely but highly efficient detective—as she proves when confronted with solving the murder by poisoning of Cyrus Vaile, the incredibly rich, disgustingly lecherous old patron of the local repertory theatre company.
It happens at a cocktail party in his spectacular downtown Roundup penthouse, in full view of Lilly and most of his repertory "family," any one of whom might have a pretty good motive for wanting Cyrus dead. And with so much flamboyant emotion obscuring the facts like a theatrical fog, it isn't easy for Lilly to cut through the glycerin tears and get at the unvarnished truth.
In Lilly, her eccentric extended family (who made their money in two black crops—oil and Angus), and her dashing suitor Richard Jerome—an ex-Morgan banker turned opera impresario and professional team-roper—Marne Davis Kellogg has invented a fascinating cast of ongoing characters. In Tramp she has created a witty, twisty mystery that shows off each of their talents to perfection.
Fourth in the series
"Lilly Bennett not only accepts growing older, she embraces it. She is independent, not by default, but because she wants to be... Kellogg is a champion of real women. Nothing But Gossip endorses the charm and power of feminine diversity. It playfully celebrates robust, spirited women, and the men smart enough to love them."
—The Denver Post
Finally, Lilly Bennett's long-suffering mother can breathe a sign of relief—and reap the rewards of her finely honed party-planning skills by throwing the wedding of the century! Lilly and her dashing suitor, Richard Jerome, are just a week from the altar. Except that, where Lilly Bennett, Marshal of Bennett's Fort and President of Bennett Security, is concerned, that might as well be a lifetime.
And sure enough, it's at a pre-wedding party that the first shooting occurs. The victim is the hostess herself, Alma Rutherford Gilhooly—larger, louder, and brassier than life, but also richer-than-Croesus—who is found in her dressing room with a bullet in her head just moments after Lilly has left. Suspects abound—from Alma's philandering husband Wade, to charismatic televangelist Johnny Bourbon, to hunky Great White Hunter Kennedy McGee, to Alma's own half-sister Mercedes, now president and CEO of Rutherford Oil and Alma's chief rival in a bitter proxy fight.
To muddy the waters—and give Lilly a bunch of pre-nuptial headaches that have nothing at all to do with getting cold feet—each one of these suspicious characters seems to be sleeping in the wrong bed. So what's the motive—business or pleasure? It takes three more attempted murders and all of Lilly's investigative powers before the villian is caught, just in time for the wedding!
As always, Marne Davis Kellogg's character portraits are devastatingly on-target, her mystery scrupulously plotted, and her sense of place immaculately portrayed.
Fifth in the series
"An entertaining, highly fantastical, urban western mystery. The only feathers ruffled are on the boas the showgirls wear."
Out West, where open spaces are practically sacred, land developers are considered the closest thing to Satan, so it's really no surprise to Lilly Bennett when members of the Johnson clan—the evil spirits behind the Johnson Land Company—start getting bumped off.
It all begins with a masked gunman's very surprising appearance at a charity dinner. With her trusty Glock pistol tucked in her evening bag, Lilly chases the murderer across food-laden tables, startling the guests even more and ruining her brand-new Yves Saint Laurent aubergine shantung suit in the process, only to have the killer escape in the Bennett family helicopter. Needless to say, she is more than eager to get even.
As any reader of Marne Davis Kellogg's wickedly biting, cleverly conceived, and always amusing mysteries will know, nothing that happens to the Bennett clan of Bennett's Fort, Wyoming, ever takes place on a small scale. In Birthday Party, Lilly and her oh-so-proper mother spend time hobnobbing with a bevy of Las Vegas showgirls; the marshal and her brand-new husband, Richard, find themselves wining and dining with mobsters; and Bennett's Fort entertains superstar Wayne Newton at a party. Events unfold at breakneck speed and the entertainment never lets up, right until the startling, and deliciously satisfying, conclusion.
Birthday Party is out of print, but copies may be available through your used book retailer.