Can reading cause death? A most reluctant sleuth seeks an answer.
Just because 40-ish Sophie "Phee" Kimball has a civil service job with the Mankato police department, her panicked mother think she’s qualified to investigate murder. Phee’s mom, Harriet Plunkett, belongs to a Sun City West book club whose membership is suddenly diminishing. Harriet’s convinced that reading the club’s latest selection, The Twelfth Arrondissement, a self-published book by an unknown author, is what killed her friends even though all the deaths appear to be accidents: a golf cart crash, a fall followed by pneumonia, an allergic reaction to bee stings—all perfectly reasonable ways to die. Encouraged by a police detective friend and numerous calls from her mom, Phee heads from Minnesota to Arizona to do just enough snooping to help Harriet feel better. The golf cart accident seems to be nothing but an accident, but the lady who died in the hospital after a fall might have been killed by her allergy to finned fish, which could have been added to her chicken salad by a nephew who had her cremated suspiciously quickly. A visit to the pool where the bee stung another unfortunate turns up a piece of a sugar carton and a hole that might have been filled with sugar to attract bees. Even as Phee presses her investigation, The Twelfth Arrondissement climbs bestseller lists as publicity about its alleged curse spreads across the country. Despite help from her detective friend and a hacker that owes him favors, Phee has a hard time finding out who the author really is. Nudged by her mom, however, she continues to investigate what may have been a series of murders even if there was no curse.
Eaton's debut introduces a retirement community filled with quirky characters and a sleuth who may have more talent for solving puzzles than she admits.