In her first novel--both a whodunit and a series of sketches of small-town Texas types--Fraser lays out the gossipy inner life of a community along with the victim. As a murder mystery, the story is much too programmatic; but as an affectionate if sentimental treatment of eccentrics and low-rent survivors, it holds its own. Gussie Hoot spent her last hours "counting her money. Same as she did every single morning of the world." When she's found dead, the book settles into a predictable series of instances, sketches and investigative maneuvers on the part of local law enforcement. We meet Gussie's son, Bubba Houghton, "who resembled a soft, plump pear" instead of the macho man Gussie always wanted; J.D. Killion, the sheriff, and his hopeless deputy Rowdy; Lincoln Winters, the local banker who worked with Gussie; and the Lone Star Bidders, Gussie's bridge club known to the locals as the "Lone Star Biddies." Once we've met the cast, Fraser introduces her only wild card--Jewell Ray Cantwell and his wife, Sherrylee, found in California with a wad of Gussie's cash. They're brought back to town for trial, and Joel Ferris, known as the local ambulance-chaser, defends them. After a long section detailing the couple's wayward road-movie saga, the blow-by-blow of the trial fills out the book. It's the weakest section, though by this time we're at least still interested to know who in fact did kill the woman. Her son, whom she ridiculed and humiliated? The drifters? After far too much padding, we learn the real truth--and life returns to normal. A modest effort most notable for its occasionally amusing touches of local color.