A second adventure for New York widower, ex-cop Dave (A Nice Murder for Mom), now an investigator for Public Defender Ann Swenson in the mid-sized western town of Mesa Grande. He's persuaded his feisty, sharp-witted mother to move there too. She's bought an apartment and a car, made friends, and occasionally attends services at Rabbi Loewenstein's small synagogue. Retirees Abe and Sarah Meyer are part of his congregation, recent arrivals from the East. Their son Roger, on vacation from Yale, is being defended by Ann on a charge of assault after an encounter with his parents' neighbor Reverend Chuck Candy, minister of the Effulgent Apostles of Christ. It's Christmas time, and Candy's garish decorations and amplified carols have turned the quiet street into a nightmare of noise and gawkers. Roger has scarcely been released to await a preliminary hearing when Candy is shot to death in his own house--a cryptic crayon message left near his body. All the evidence, including an eyewitness, points to Roger, who promptly disappears--but Dave is finding some promising leads in the unsavory hidden life of the reverend, whose business and marital ethics are beginning to look equally squalid. Dave's mother, meanwhile, is busily working on the crime's scenario, and she's right on target. Better plotted, paced, and written than the author's debut in the series. Yaffe's never preachy, even while dealing with some ugly facets of life in America, His light touch pays off in an amiable, steadily entertaining story.