California funeral director Desiree Turner (A Grave Issue, 2018) imperils her family’s business when she snoops into the death of one of its clients.
Like many of the dearly departed in Verbena, Violet Daugherty spends her final days aboveground at the Turner Family Funeral Home. But unlike most of Turner’s clients, she has no close family to mourn her loss—or to tell Desiree, her sister, Donna, or Uncle Joey exactly what final arrangements they’d like. Her only relative seems to be a distant cousin in Maine—so distant, in fact, that Lizette Pinkston barely knew Violet existed before she expired in a one-car crash. The abruptness of Violet’s departure makes Desiree wonder why a healthy young woman would suddenly fall asleep at the wheel and veer off the road to her death. And, not one to undergeneralize, she also starts to wonder how some of their other clients met their ends, especially elderly Mr. Fiore, whose death in hospice care after a long illness Desiree still regards as somehow suspect. But unlike Violet, Mr. Fiore does have family, and daughters Daisy and Iris Fiore take strong exception to Desiree’s suspicions. Soon the Turners find Verbena’s citizens turning to rival funeral homes to bury their dead, and Desiree must act quickly to prove that her suspicions aren’t the product of an overactive imagination before she runs the family business into the ground.
The second in Bell’s series is as lively as her first, with a quick-moving plot, a nicely crafted puzzle, and a heroine worth spending time with.