Jan 1, 1996

The Trouble with a Bad Fit

The Trouble with a Bad Fit
A Simona Griffo Mystery
by Camilla T. Crespi
1996, HarperCollins, ISBN 0-06-109-4080, Harper Paperbacks, ISBN 0-06-109408-0

Where I Get My Ideas

Working with several fashion accounts during my advertising days, I became fascinated with the business of clothes. With Bad Fit I got a chance to study the rag trade and find out how a piece of cloth develops into a dress and tons of hype. I did a lot of research for this book, hanging out in a design studio and at the Fashion Institute of Technology library. I came up with a lot of information that I was afraid to include in the book for fear of slowing the mystery down, so I added "fashion footnotes" in the back of the book for those readers who want to know more. The rag trade the way it was known to the countless immigrants who survived on it is disappearing. As a recent immigrant I wanted to tip my hat to that business.

In this one, I also got a chance to pit Stan against Simona as they work on the same case. I guess I like to test their love for each other.


New York: the garment district, Greenwich Village, Union Square, Soho, Chinatown, Bryant Park, Upper West Side, Penn Station South, Long Island.

Roberta Riddle, an aging designer who is trying to make a comeback and one of Simona's difficult clients, has one week to get her act together before the New York ready-to-wear spring/summer fashion shows. Her new partner, Charlie, is giving her problems. Someone is playing nasty tricks on her. Then her muse and fit model, Phyllis, gets her head bludgeoned with Roberta's jade Buddha in the ladies room where Charlie left a bloody fingerprint. Stan Greenhouse is assigned the case. Roberta knows that Stan is also Simona's boyfriend. She offers Simona five thousand dollars to help clear Charlie.

Simona, whose own job is at risk, wants to keep a client happy even though Stan doesn't like it one bit. When someone starts chasing after Simona, she hires a bodyguard -- Dmitri K, a Stalin look-alike who drives a taxi, uses his cousin's pink Cadillac as an office, and sells hair on the side. They soon become sparring partners and fast friends. Careening from one side of Manhattan to another, they piece together the fragments of everyone's past which comes together just as Roberta's models sashay down the runway of the fashion tent in Bryant Park.

Recurring Characters

* Stan Greenhouse
* Raf Garcia, his partner
* Willy Greenhouse
* Gregory Price, Simona's good friend at work last seen in Small Raise


A fast paced thriller...Ms. Crespi has an eye for fashion detail that gives the novel a cutting edge. -- The Sunday New York Times Book Review

This is a clever little novel with lots of insider bits about high fashion and snappy characters. -- Toronto Globe & Mail

Quick-moving prose, good garment-district atmosphere and a heady mixture of skeletons in the closet makes this a recommended title. -- Library Journal

Sprightly, sunny, and gossipy: a welcome return. -- Kirkus Reviews

The Beginning

"Garmentos stab you in the chest!" Phyllis announced.

Roberta Riddle ripped a muslin sleeve from the jacket Phyllis was modeling.

From the open workroom door, the tailor scowled. The sample maker nodded. The production manager jiggled his sneakered foot.

Roberta ripped out the other sleeve.

Recipe -- Schmatta* Pasta

Serves six

* 2 oz. dried porcini mushrooms
* 8 tbsps olive oil
* 1 lb. white mushrooms, cleaned and sliced
* 1/2 lb. shiitake mushrooms, cleaned and sliced
* 1/2 lb. portobello mushrooms, cleaned and sliced
* salt and pepper to taste
* 2 slices bacon, diced
* 4 cloves garlic, peeled
* 1 (28 oz.) can peeled Italian tomatoes
* 1/4 tsp. crushed red pepper flakes
* 1/2 cup flat-leafed parsley, chopped
* 1 lb fresh lasagne**
* 1/2 cup grated Parmesan

Soak dried porcini mushrooms in 1 1/2 cups of warm water for 30 minutes. Remove the softened porcini from liquid and rinse under water. Chop. Drain mushroom liquid through a sieve lined with a paper towel and reserve.

Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil.

Heat 2 tbsps. of olive oil in large skillet. Sauté fresh mushrooms in batches over high heat until water evaporates. With each batch, add oil as needed (reserving 2 tbsps). Season with salt and pepper.

In another skillet sauté bacon until crisp. Remove bacon and discard bacon grease. Heat the reserved 2 tbsps. of oil in the same skillet and cook garlic cloves until golden. Add tomatoes, mushroom liquid, bacon, and red pepper flakes. Cook over high heat for ten minutes. Remove garlic and season to taste. Add all the mushrooms and mix well. Cook for another five minutes to heat through. Add parsley.

Tear fresh lasagne into three-inch pieces to make schmatte. Drop lasagne pieces (rags) into the boiling water. Mix well to keep them form sticking to each other. Cook until al dente (three minutes) and drain.

Pour half the sauce and half the Parmesan in a large serving dish. Add schmatte and mix well. Pour rest of mushroom sauce and rest of Parmesan on top. Mix again and serve.

*Schmatta in Yiddish means rag. The clothing business was often referred to as the rag trade or the schmatta trade.

**Dried lasagne can also be used -- crack in half before boiling. Cook until al dente (approx. 10-12 minutes).

NOTE: Recipe can be prepared in advance and kept in refrigerator for two days or can be frozen. If not serving immediately, cook the pasta for only two minutes. Reheat pasta and sauce in 400-degree oven until piping hot (15 minutes approx.).