Marti MacAlister’s extended family is all a-twitter. Her best friend Sharon has eloped to the Bahamas with handsome slickster DeVonte Lutrell without telling her AIDS-stricken mother or her teenaged daughter Lisa, who’s temporarily bunking at Marti’s. Meantime, the latest homicide that Marti and her white partner Vik Jessenovik have caught isn’t much of a corpse—just a bit of an arm with traces of blue paint and metallic silver that send the Lincoln Prairie cops scouring the arts community for news of a missing painter or photographer. When they discover three other arm-only cases over a 20-year span, their interrogation of local artists Lucy, Nan, and Arlene leads to Arlene’s death, Nan’s debunking, and Lucy’s cranky insistence that she was as good a painter as any of them, even her long-dead mother. Off in the Bahamas, Sharon finds she hates water, boats, sunning, and swimming, and almost drowns when DeVonte turns his back on her in the ocean. Just before a threatened hurricane hits, DeVonte, who’s discovered he’d have to share Sharon’s 401K plan with her daughter if she died, invites Lisa to Freeport. As soon as she casts a cold eye on DeVonte, Lisa phones home, bringing Marti and her love Ben out to save the girls, and leaving Vik stateside to wrap up those arms. There’ll be a suicide in Lincoln Prairie and bodies galore tossed into the ocean before Sharon and Lisa return to watch the AIDS sufferer slip into eternal relief.
As in most Blands (Scream in Silence, 2000, etc.), the domestic travails are more interesting and believable than the police work.