The gifted author of five Bo Bradley mysteries (The Dollmaker’s Daughters, 1997, etc.) kicks off her equally impressive new series with three bangs. When a San Diego tremor disables the timer in a public freezer, the five-year-old corpse stored inside (surprise #1) barely has time to come to room temperature before the police have a confession (surprise #2). The self-accused killer is (surprise #3) Beatrice (“Muffin”) Crandall, 61, who claims she bashed the still-unidentified lowlife on the head when he broke into her place, then tied the body into a neat bundle, drove it to Roadrunner Ice and Food Storage, and waited to die of cancer. It’s an incredible story, of course, and Muffin’s brother Dan is sure that psychologist Blue McCarron—a prickly, opinionated lesbian who’s lived alone in a desert motel ever since her lover Misha Deland skedaddled two years ago—can find enough flaws in it to get the confession thrown out of court and Muffin thrown out of jail. And sure enough, Blue’s convinced that Muffin, a passionate activist who raised Dan after their parents died, is no killer. Before she can confront her with the flaws in her confession, though, Muffin is dead—not of her fatal cancer, but of a poisoned Dr. Pepper. It’s only the beginning of a new wave of violence against Muffin’s tight-knit circle of friends, golden-agers who don’t seem anywhere near ready for retirement. Blue’s a social psychologist who sounds more like an anthropologist (or a zoologist) when she’s talking about the male animal. But burning ears shouldn’t keep readers of either gender from enjoying this suspenseful, boldly plotted tribute to the power of sisterhood.