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by Ken Hodgson

Pub Date: Aug. 15th, 2012
ISBN: 978-1-4328-2603-1
Publisher: Five Star

Arsenic and Old Lace meets al-Qaida.

Fresh from her divorce to a soulless Houston lawyer and her job at a chain restaurant, Samantha Sterling hopes for new horizons managing the Sunset Bed and Breakfast in Tombstone, Ariz. Both the town and the B&B turn out to be aptly named indeed. As Samantha realizes when the only guest in residence suddenly keels over dead, Sidney Munson and Michael Herod, the 50ish gay couple who own the place together with Sidney’s mother, Esther, are nothing less than an assassination team for The Company. Your tax dollars, funneled through the CIA, send enemies of the American way of life—smugglers, terrorists, attorneys—to the Sunset, where they’re quietly dispatched, preferably by poison, by a crew determined to make initially aghast Samantha one of their number. Nor are Sidney and Michael the only Tombstone residents who nod off every night dreaming of homicide. Tex Birdsong, the retired longshoreman who lives nearby, lives for the date of his shrewish wife Fern’s funeral, and the clueless Tombstone Minutemen plot mayhem at every turn. After two routine rounds of executions, the Sunset circle gets word that an al-Qaida crew has procured a 30-megaton nuclear weapon that it plans to detonate in the area, and matters rapidly descend from the silly to the creepy as Samantha finds herself getting a taste for the work.

Apart from the tin-eared dialogue, relentlessly arch without being funny, Hodgson (The Man Who Killed Shakespeare, 2007, etc.) makes the first half genuinely amusing before those nuclear terrorists arrive and spoil it all.