A Boston-based private eye returns for a fourth whirl when she infiltrates a megachurch.
Fina Ludlow is a misfit in her own family; she’s the only nonlawyer in the Ludlow law firm, and she hasn’t settled down to a conventional domestic life. She’s also the only one outraged that her oldest brother, Rand, is being welcomed back into the family after having molested his teenage daughter. Fina’s father is more focused on doing a favor for an old flame, who wants to dissuade her grown daughter from transferring a large bequest to the Covenant Rising Church. Fina agrees to help out by getting the goods on charismatic Pastor Greg Gatchell. And goods there are: Gatchell and his wife, who enjoy a big house on the church property as well as two church-owned vacation homes, make frequent church business trips to Florida and the Bahamas. When Fina goes to Nadine Quaynor, one of the church leaders, for financial information, she finds Nadine dead on the floor. The victim’s cousin used to date her husband, so was jealousy the motive for poisoning her with antifreeze? Or did Nadine discover something about the Gatchells? And who’s taken out a contract to beat up Fina? Her cop friend/part-time boyfriend and her masseur/best friend/occasional bedmate try to help protect her, but Fina’s not one to hide behind a man. While she’s trying to get the real story about the church’s charitable works and sorting out her tangled relationships, she’s also building a case against Rand and whatever hold he has over their father. Whenever she builds up some momentum, though, it’s time for her to settle back with one of her signature snacks. Add a not extremely convincing evildoer in this whodunit, and the result isn’t altogether satisfying.
Even if pacing and plausibility are still a problem for Thoft (Brutality, 2015, etc.), the renegade protagonist triumphs over her creator’s occasional misjudgment.