Amid the bouquets at the first annual Show-Me Floral Designers’ Competition and Conference, in Branson, Missouri, are two very special blossoms. Having shed over a hundred pounds apiece—contest coordinator Bretta Solomon (Murder Sets Seed, 2000) through conventional dieting and designer Angelica Weston through the more radical procedure of stomach-stapling—the pair bursts forth to bask in the admiration that is every newly thin woman’s due. While Bretta’s preening is relatively modest—some playful badinage with her assistant Robbee, mutual ogling with hunky contestant Zach, and a full-fledged flirtation with mysterious hotel guest Bailey Monroe—Gellie’s is more histrionic, including her stunning entrance into the opening-night banquet, various lies about her whereabouts, and, to Bretta’s dismay, signs of secret snacking coupled with tearful confessions of how much she fears regaining weight. Piqued by Gellie’s suspicious behavior and by a mysterious note left for her by Vincent and Mabel McDuffy, who disappear soon after asking her to look into the death of their daughter Stephanie, Bretta barely has time to exchange smoldering looks with Bailey before the McDuffy bodies turn up at the bottom of a nearby ravine, and pared-down Bretta has to prove that she’s still no lightweight at detection.
Harrison maintains her strong ear, but her emphasis on Bailey’s and Bretta’s will-he-or won’t-he romance blows the relatively frail mystery away.