Bookseller Claire Malloy (A Conventional Corpse, 2000, etc.) knows when her daughter has a real problem and when she’s just acting like a teenager. So when Caron tells her This Is Serious, she hustles her boyfriend, Peter Rosen, out of the apartment before he’s even finished his beer. Good call. Someone’s left an infant on Claire’s doorstep with a note asking her to take care of Skyler “for a few days.” But a few days may not be enough. Skyler’s teenaged mother, Daphne, lives on the street. Her father, real-estate developer Anthony Armstrong, and his trophy wife Adrienne tossed her out when she got pregnant; her space-case mother Sheila is way too into vodka to care for her; and her ex-boyfriend, Joey Guilerra, is living in the Pot O’ Gold trailer park with a barfly named Bocaraton. But Claire’s afraid to tell Peter about Skyler, even when Armstrong is found dead and Daphne’s arrested for his murder. She just knows that Lt. Rosen and the social services folks will whisk Skyler away to some roach-infested foster home. Instead, she recruits best friend Luanne Bradshaw, Caron, and Caron’s buddy Inez Thornton to take turns babysitting while she infiltrates the Green Party’s protest against Armstrong’s latest housing project and makes nice to the widow Adrienne and her sister Chantilly—anything to clear Daphne.
A lot more antic than Claire’s usual fare, though fans looking for a more successful mixture of mystery and farce should wait for Hess’s next dispatch from Maggody, Arkansas, miles and worlds away from Claire’s Fayetteville.