Gray hairs, wrinkles, pants that won’t zip: yes, the years are finally catching up with part-time reporter and full-time mom Lucy Stone (Wedding Day Murder, 2001, etc.). Of course, her personal battle against aging—including $60 worth of Countess Irene cosmetics—doesn’t stop her plans to celebrate the 90th birthday of Tinker’s Cove oldest citizen, retired librarian Julia Ward Howe Tilley. Lucy and her breakfast buddies, Sue Finch, Pam Stillings, and Rachel Goodman, decide that May 20 will be Miss Tilley Day, complete with cookies and finger sandwiches supplied by caterer Corney Clark and music by the high-school band. Lucy even promises Sue to interview Miss Tilley in hopes that Sue’s daughter Sidra will convince her boss, TV star Norah Hemmings, to feature the festivities on her show. But the interview gets back-burnered by the alleged suicide of Sherman Cobb, senior partner at the law firm of Rachel’s husband Bob, and again by the arrival of Shirley, daughter of Miss Tilley’s sister Harriet, who was banished by their father years ago for marrying a Democrat. Both distractions raise Lucy’s suspicions—who could possibly kill himself with a pork chop from Dunne’s Butcher Shop defrosting on the counter for dinner?—but only by defying Lieutenant Horowitz’s orders to butt out does Lucy expose a killer determined to crash the party.
Lucy’s ninth offers less chat and more plot than usual, but still gratingly insists that residents of Tinker’s Cove—even those who cheat on their wives—are morally superior to everyone else on the planet.