What seems like a Halloween prank is a cover for murder.
After meeting and marrying a wealthy dentist in haste, Scottish clinical psychologist Lexy Campbell has divorced and retreated to the southern California town of Cuento. She lives on a tiny houseboat moored in a slough behind the Last Ditch Motel, which houses her odd but lovable friends. Owner Noleen’s wife, Kathi, is a germaphobe who keeps the place spotless. To accommodate married doctors Roger and Todd, she keeps the bugs down with illegal imported pesticides, since Todd has a severe case of cleptoparasitosis. All seems well until they pull up the beer Lexy’s been cooling in the slough for their Halloween party and a dead body comes with it. Detective Molly “Mike” Rankinson shows up to investigate the bloated corpse, which is wearing an orange wig topped by a tartan tammy. Only Lexy notices the dead man's ring, which has vanished by the time the divers pull the anonymous victim from the water, but it turns into the clue that will identify him. Mike brushes off Lexy when she urges her to read Robert Burns’ poem “Tam O’Shanter,” which seems to predict other odd occurrences, like someone cutting off a horse’s tail. Despite this discouragement, the motley crew can’t ignore the mystery and finally ID the body as an unpopular high school student who left town for 50 years until a recent class reunion. Another member of the class vanished decades ago after their graduation party, and her mother has never given up the search for her. The missing girl’s classmates seem spooked when Lexy and her friends visit to chat them up and fish for clues. The secret’s clearly hidden in the past, though not too deeply for the intrepid amateur sleuths.
The second in this new series from veteran McPherson (Scot Free, 2018, etc.) is a hilarious romp that’s dead serious when it comes to the tricky mystery and an unexpected denouement.