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‘Killer Hair’ Teases Out a New Sleuth

Combine a bad hair day with murder and what do you get? "Killer Hair."

Despite the catchy, '50s B-movie title, "Killer Hair" (Sunday, Lifetime Movie Network, 8 ET/9 PT ) is something else: a mix of mystery, romance, comedy and murder.

"Killer Hair" and June 28's "Hostile Makeover" (8 p.m. ET/9 p.m. ET ), which kick off the network's Best Seller Summer, are based on Ellen Byerrum's "Crime of Fashion" novels.

"Somebody asked me what you would call it and I said, 'A crime-edy, I guess.' I thought that might sum it up a little better than comedy or procedural or romance," says Maggie Lawson, who plays Lacey Smithsonian (no relation to the institution), a Washington, D.C., fashion columnist and amateur sleuth who finds clues in clothing. "There's a little bit of something for everybody."

Lacey and a stylist gal pal (Sadie LeBlanc) become convinced a suicide is murder when they see the corpse has a horrible haircut. That leads Lacey on an investigation, despite the best efforts of newspaper colleagues and police, including a former and likely future lover (Victor Webster), to keep her focused on frills instead of felons.

But Lacey, a stylish gal who favors vintage clothing, also fills a gap in one of Byerrum's favorite literary genres.

"I've loved mysteries, read them constantly, but there was just one thing I kept running into: great heroines, but there's always a part where they made a point that the heroine could do everything but dress herself in something decent," she says. "It drove me crazy,"

Byerrum says murder isn't funny, but there's "a lot of funny stuff in how we react" to death.

"The book opens where Lacey is looking at the poor woman in the coffin and they're talking about her bad haircut. I mean, that's how we react," says Byerrum, who discovered a body at a country club when she was 10.

Byerrum, who until recently was a reporter covering government in Washington, drew inspiration for Lacey from newswomen Brenda Starr and Rosalind Russell's Hildy Johnson from "His Girl Friday": "That kind of fabulous, get-out-there woman who's strong and fun and attractive as well."

Lawson was impressed by the book-to-script translation, which shows a multifaceted Lacey, all the better to deal with the various people in her life and the alternating moods in the movie. Mary McDonnell plays her mother, Mark Consuelos is a competing reporter, and Mario Cantone is a stylist.

"She has a slightly different personality in almost every scenario," Lawson says. With her girlfriends, she's a "girly girl," talking about fashion, gossip and men. In her investigations, she's confident of her skill but a bit defensive with colleagues and police. And in romance, she has been stung, "so she's guarded ... but in the end a hopeless romantic."

Lawson isn't about to become a murder investigator, but "Killer Hair" and "Makeover" have helped her with fashion.

"My friends have a joke. Whenever I say that I got a new dress, it's like, 'Oh, is it black, white or gray?' because I don't take a lot of risks," she says.

"But I opened my closet the other day and they can't ask me the black-white-gray question anymore because my closet is colorful. I actually have acquired real vintage label pieces. These movies have heightened my awareness of the fashion world."

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