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by Joan Hess

Pub Date: April 18th, 2005
ISBN: 0-312-31304-7
Publisher: Minotaur

Claire Malloy (Out on a Limb, 2002, etc.) house-sits for a friend who turns out to be one shady lady.

It seems like such a sweet deal. While her landlord renders her modest flat rodent-free, bookseller Claire, her daughter Caron, and Caron’s best friend Inez get to stay in Dolly Goforth’s swank digs, with unlimited use of the pool, the widescreen TV, and a freezer stocked with goodies for the grill. The only catch is that to reach the beef, they have to dig past a corpse that after two brief appearances on the lawn comes to rest smack atop Dolly’s stash of New York strip steaks. Meanwhile, Claire’s frantic attempts to reach Dolly at her sister’s in Arizona stall, and Dolly’s obnoxious nieces Madison and Sara Louise arrive, planning to spend their days lounging by the pool in their teensy-weensy bikinis while the local garage boys sweat over their Maserati. Nosy neighbors Daniel and Lucy Hood show up with brownies; bird-watcher Gary Billings hits on Claire; and a mysterious assailant knocks her out and trashes her shop. Before she and her boyfriend Peter Rosen solve the case, Madison and Sara Louise will both disappear, Caron and Inez will learn the tango, and Claire’s dining room will be littered with flower arrangements no local florist will admit delivering.

A deluge of puzzlement, somewhat unevenly distributed, but leavened as always by Claire’s ready wit.