The members charged with governing a church community are hiding secrets that could help solve several murders.
Claire Codella (Forgotten City, 2016, etc.) has overcome her bout with cancer to return to the job she loves as an NYPD detective. She’s patched her rocky professional relationship with her lover, Brian Haggerty, and when Brian’s precinct catches a homicide, he asks for Claire’s help. Vestry member Rose Bartruff has found Churchwarden Philip Graves barely alive in the garden of St. Paul’s Episcopal Church after a vestry meeting. Fellow member Dr. Susan Bentley tries CPR, but Graves does not survive, and soon thereafter Codella discovers the body of the vestry secretary dead in her minivan outside the church. The five remaining vestry members and rector Anna Brookes each have a different take on the evening, but Codella wonders if any of them is telling the whole truth. They all agree that the meeting was routine, but the minutes are missing and there is a 15-minute period when Rose was out of the room that Codella suspects was a lot more contentious that anyone will admit. Two of the vestry members finally admit that Graves was blackmailing them for their vote. Graves and lawyer Peter Linton, it seems, had very different ideas how to solve the church’s financial problems. Also on the scene were the new organist and the rector’s snarky husband. Examining fingerprints, trace evidence, phone and computer records, Codella uses her skills at eliciting information and her nose for the truth to crack the case.
Smith’s first-rate police procedural provides plenty of likely suspects and a clever detective who manages to solve the crime in just five days.