The peaceful tenor of life in Broward’s Rock, South Carolina, is at risk with the arrival on the island of retired Brigadier General Bud Hatch, a reactionary bully who detests gays, blacks, and anything that smacks of liberalism. Annie Darling (Mint Julep Murder, 1995, etc.), amateur sleuth and owner of the Death on Demand mystery bookstore, sees trouble ahead when Hatch, now on the library board, seeks to downplay the role of South Carolina women in the historical chronicle being prepared for the upcoming Fourth of July Festival. Hatch would like to see the departure of the library’s competent director Ned Fisher, a gay man living with artist Toby Maguire. Neither is he happy with the un-complaisant president of the library board, Henry Brawley, or librarian Edith Cummings. When a hefty flowerpot falls from a library balcony and barely misses Hatch, he is quick to accuse Samuel Kinnon, a young black whose future is threatened by the Hatch’s animus. There are others whose lives are roiled by Hatch’s intrusion, but it all comes to a head on Festival Day when a gunshot ends his life and Samuel faces a murder charge. Annie and her husband Max work hard to prove Samuel’s innocence, homing in on answers that lie in the past—but the upshot is out of their hands. Loaded as usual with an excess of detective story lore, but the local characters are often appealing, as is the small-town atmosphere. Best of the author’s recent outings.