Veteran sleuth Jane Lawless (Sweet Poison, 2008, etc.) tries to wrap up her first case as an actual PI, even as she wonders if she’s getting too involved for her own good.
Drifter Annie Archer shows up at the Xanadu Club, one of the two restaurants Jane owns, looking for both a job and her long-lost stepfather. Apparently he made fast tracks right after Annie’s mother died, and she hasn’t seen or heard from him since. Jane quickly discovers that Annie isn’t telling the whole truth about her past or her motivations for reuniting with her stepfather. Meanwhile, Susan Bowman, who’s peripherally and unfortunately related to the case, is murdered in her home. Jane fears for Annie, who’s recently taken up with Susan’s emotionally fragile son Curt. If she can figure out the secrets of Annie’s past, Jane knows she can help protect the young woman—something she’d like to do more than she’d care to admit. Considering that her ex won’t even return her calls, she figures that it’s about time she felt that spark for someone, and Annie has some convenient lesbian tendencies that draw her to Jane as well. While all this goes on, Jane’s usual sidekick Cordelia is preoccupied pining for her niece Hattie, whose histrionic mother has recently retaken custody.
Romance scenes read like outtakes from a Harlequin bodice-ripper in this blast from Jane’s past, whose light-fare pleasures will depend on readers’ investment in the cast.