Monday, April 15, 2013

Buyer Beware, Brancusi and Audrey Hepburn

We have a guest post today from Diane Vallere, author of the cozy mystery, BUYER BEWARE, about her inspiration for the book and insider secrets from her eight years as a luxury department store buyer.  The author is also giving away free copies of the book and a $25 Book Depository gift card. Instructions on how to enter can be found at the bottom of the post. 


This post is supposed to be about the research I conducted for BUYER, BEWARE, the latest book in the Style & Error Mystery Series. Trouble is, having worked as a buyer for about eight years, I lived through a large portion of the research and have nothing to show for it except for an outdated resume. I would have loved to distract you with photos of factories, showrooms, and handsome designers, but, alas, those photos don’t exist. I have ridiculously few photos from the mid-nineties to the mid-oughts. (Those that I do have are of my cat, who is no longer with me, but lives on in the character Logan.)

So instead, I’m going to dazzle you with a combination of insider information, the inspiration behind this particular story, and, because I sometimes have trouble focusing, a squirrel.

1.The mystery in BUYER, BEWARE surrounds a fictitious collection of designer handbags. In real life, handbags have become status items on par with precious jewelry! Unbeknownst to many clients, one luxury handbag brand includes microchips in their bags so they can verify authenticity and aggressively take down knockoff artists. For real!

2. The reason BUYER, BEWARE opens with a caper is I wanted to pay tribute to one of my favorite movies, How To Steal A Million.

I liked the idea of a planned theft, coordinated by people who could pull it off, but not for reasons of greed or illegal financial gain. The fake statue was designed by Milo Puccetti, a student of Constantine Brancusi. That was inspired by the statue Bird in Space, housed in the Philadelphia Museum of Art. Having grown in in Phillly-adjacent Reading, Pennsylvania, I often went to the museum and admired the exhibit. Who knows—it might have been the same day I ran up the steps out front and imitated Rocky Balboa. (The name Milo is a nod to THE PHANTOM TOLLBOOTH, one of my favorite books).

3. Samantha Kidd lives in this house:

Coincidentally, I lived there too. A few years ago it was listed for sale and I considered setting up an appointment with the realtor to check it out (I didn’t). I wonder if the new owners know what a gem they have?

4. Getting back to handbags, can you believe one vendor “auditions” new factories with ghost orders? Handbags are produced and checked for quality and consistency over a period of several seasons. Even harder to believe: regardless of how good the resulting product is, it never sees the light of day. Instead, it is destroyed. A crime unto itself.

5. BUYER, BEWARE is set in a fictionalized version of Reading, Pennsylvania, where I grew up. Once I decided to fictionalize it, I knew I had the opportunity to use re-landscape the city to my needs. The vendor showroom in this book, mentioned as being in a renovated building on Penn Street, is in the old Pomeroy’s department store, which, in reality, closed in 1957 and was subsequently turned into a bank. I have a soft spot for retail establishments that no longer exist.

6. One highly coveted collection of crocodile bags maintains a price structure almost 30% less than other bags made of the same materials. Why? The company is excused from export tariffs because they employ many locals and are not affiliated with the drug trade. The lower cost is passed along to the consumer. Still, the bags are in the several thousand dollar price range!

7. The scenes between Detective Loncar and Samantha are some of my most favorite. I admit, my first attempts to write a homicide detective character were pretty far off-base. It wasn’t until I attended a class on Interrogation Techniques taught by a former homicide detective that I realized my fantasy-land police were an insult to the boys in blue. But I was inspired. I rewrote the interrogation scene in DESIGNER DIRTY LAUNDRY and incorporated some of what I’d learned. When it came time to put the polish on BUYER, BEWARE, I realized how much fun I could have with the interaction between Detective Loncar and Samantha—and I did.

8. The rumored waiting list for the Hermes Birkin bag is pretty much that—a rumor (or maybe better called an urban legend?). Spend any time in one of the luxury retailers in Beverly Hills and you’ll start to think they’re issued to anyone who moves to the zip code 90210! And just a few weeks ago two Birkins became part of a mystery all their own: along with pieces of precious jewelry, they were stolen from a house in the greater Philadelphia area. There is often inspiration in the news.

9. There is a ridiculous amount of information about squirrels on the internet, and, even more ridiculous are the one million plus stories that include the words “squirrel” and “handbag.” I don’t have that kind of time—do you?

Diane Vallere's Bio:
I grew up reading both Trixie Belden mysteries and Vogue magazine and learned how to spot a counterfeiting ring and accessorize a wardrobe. When it was time to find a career I headed out to the mall...and nine years later was a buyer for one of the top luxury stores in the country. But while Paris, Milan, and New York satisfied my appetite for fashion, my passion for creativity went unfed. Now I sell fine apparel by day and uncover crimes of fashion by night, in the form of mystery writing. I still love accessories, only now some of them are accessories to murder.

Buyer Beware Synopsis:

Out of work fashion expert Samantha Kidd is strapped, until the buyer of handbags for a hot new retailer turns up murdered. When Samantha is recruited for the job, it comes with a caveat: sheís expected to find some answers. The police name a suspect but Samantha's convinced the label doesnít fit. With patent determination and a tote bag of tenacity, she turns to a sexy stranger for help. As the walls close around her like a snug satin lining, Samantha must get a handle on the suspects, or risk being caught in the killer's clutches.


You can enter to win a copy of Samantha Kidd's Guide to Sleuthing in Style, a paperback or ebook of Buyer Beware by Diane Vallere or a $25 Book Depository gift card, by clicking here, and going to the Cozy Mystery Book Review webstie.  There will be four winners.


  1. Diane, what a fun blogpost. I love Audrey Hepburn (and handbags) and will put your book on my to read list.

    1. Thank you, Kerry! If you haven't seen How to Steal A Million, you must! It's a Hepburn classic.

  2. Just bought your latest book. Since I so enjoyed the first one, I wanted to add this one to my collection. I really like your smart and fashion conscious heroine. She is a great addition to the mystery scene.

    1. Thanks, Gayle! I hope Samantha and the gang keep you entertained!

  3. Thanks for a great guest post Diane!

    1. Thank you for hosting me, Deborah! I love your Sherlock Holmes in hot water photo!

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