A murder in the crypt—no, make that the columbarium—of Caerphilly, Virginia's Trinity Episcopal kicks off Meg Langslow’s 23rd case.
Naturally, Meg discovers the body, and naturally, she’s not supposed to be there. But after she sees signs of an intruder while she’s working late at the church as pregnant Rev. Robyn Smith frets through the bed rest she’s been ordered, Meg investigates further during her phone call to the Caerphilly police and discovers the body of Junius Hagley, one of the Mumbling Misogynsts who’ve done everything they can to undermine their female rector. Just as distressing as Hagley’s murder by crowbar is the sight of six desecrated memorial niches, some of whose urns have been knocked over and spilled out what are now irretrievably commingled ashes. The urns contain the mortal remains of Hagley’s wife, Dolores, wealthy Beatrice Helen Falkenhausen van der Lynden, her handyman, J.A. Washington, former frat boy P. Jefferson Blair, Lacey Shiffley of Caerphilly’s endless Shiffley family, and a John Doe who’s never been identified. Why would Hagley or anyone else have taken the trouble to pry them open in the dead of night? A bejeweled ring found at the scene suggests that it might be the site of a treasure hunt, but Meg’s more interested in what the six post-mortem victims have in common: All of them, even the John Doe, are linked to a burglary 30 years ago at the van der Lynden mansion, now rechristened as Ragnarsheim, the home of semiretired heavy metal drummer Ragnar Ragnarsen. So she works to figure out exactly what went down during that ancient robbery and how it’s connected to the latest outrage in the town’s extensive criminal annals (How the Finch Stole Christmas!, 2017, etc.).
The setup is a lot stronger than the follow-up, which requires reams of backstory, an elaborate restaging of the original robbery, a culprit plucked from nowhere, and a lot fewer laughs than fans of this generally riotous franchise have a right to expect.