The murder of a millionaire stirs passions in a small North Carolina town.
Former reluctant beauty queen Madeleine Maclin (A Hard Bargain, 2007, etc.) is now a private detective patrolling Celosia, a little town that provides her with a surprising amount of work. She and her husband, retired con man Jerry Fairweather, live in a large house he inherited from his uncle while Jerry, who refuses money from his wealthy family, searches for a job that doesn’t require him to swindle anyone. Small-town boy–made-good Wendall Clarke, arriving in Celosia with his beautiful wife, Flora, plans to open an art gallery. His ex-wife and several other local artists may be furious, but they still line up to get their work shown. When Wendall is found murdered at the gallery, Flora hires Madeleine, who makes some surprising discoveries, including Flora’s long list of former husbands, none of them rich enough for her tastes. In addition, Madeleine has troubles of her own. Honor Perkins arrives in town trying to entice Jerry back into con games and separate him from Madeleine. Jerry’s forced to get involved in several séances to keep Honor from causing too much trouble. Madeleine’s investigations reveal that some local artists have a lot to hide. But did any of them hate Wendall enough to kill him?
Enjoyably quirky and sympathetic characters don’t quite make up for a weak mystery.