An Arkansas bookseller discovers the perils of literacy.
After carefully removing the dead bodies from her dream house in greater Farberville (Deader Homes and Gardens, 2012), newly married Claire Malloy finds herself unexpectedly bored. Her husband, Deputy Police Chief Peter Rosen, has open cases to investigate. Her daughter Caron is preoccupied with her best friend Inez’s transformation from frump to vamp. Jacob, her clerk, runs the Book Depot with an iron fist, leaving Claire little more to do than file invoices. And her foray into French cuisine leaves her family howling for takeout pizza. So she allows Judge Wilhelmina "Willie" Constantine to pressure her into joining the board of the Farberville Literacy Council, whose mission is to teach English to the foreign-born. Her fellow board members are a motley crew. In addition to Willie, there’s banker Rick Lester, corporate executive Sonya Emerson, wry academic Drake Whitbream, dipsomaniac Austin Rodgers and stodgy board president Frances North. But they’re not nearly as motley as the students, from tiny Asian student Miao to enormous Polish student Ludmilla, who terrorizes her fellow students with her multilingual tirades, reserving extra venom for executive director Gregory Whistler. As if dealing with feuding board members and polyglot students weren’t enough, program director Keiko Sakamoto inveigles Claire into filling in for FLC’s receptionist. Once Claire arrives, it’s only a matter of time before murder follows, and sure enough, Keiko arrives one morning to find a corpse in the copy room.
Claire’s 19th case goes on too long, but freed from penury and domestic drudgery, she sparkles.