Innkeeper Judith Flynn tackles her 28th homicide investigation.
Judith’s retirement from amateur sleuthing (The Wurst Is Yet to Come, 2012, etc.) lasts only until Hillside Manor guest Ruby Tooms checks in. Ruby wants to know who strangled her mother, Opal, 15 years ago. Since the unsolved murder took place in Seattle’s Thurlow District, where Judith grew up and where her first husband, Dan, ran the Meat & Mingle Cafe into bankruptcy, Judith is forced to revisit her old haunts. She drags along her acerbic cousin Renie and gets a helpful boost from her second husband, Joe, a retired cop eager to solve the very first case his ex-partner Woody worked on. Ruby, however, is not the ideal client. She mistakenly lands on the neighbors’ doorstep in a drunken stupor with no memory of how she got there or what happened to her purse and cellphone. After a break-in at the B&B and a hit-and-run that claims a neighbor, Ruby packs her suitcase and vanishes into the night. A firefighter called to subdue a garden flare-up Judith has started turns out to be related to Opal’s past, which included several flirtations, a stint as a caregiver in a nursing home and a lost son disinclined to learn any more about his mom’s demise. Judith’s uncle Al puts the girls onto possible links with racetrack stalwarts, and Judith keeps bumping into a certain horse trainer. She also learns who got the proceeds from a winning ticket and how they were spent, facts which do not help her solve the murder, which involves another kind of jealousy entirely.
Judith’s mother is as abrasive as ever, but the inn’s cocktail nibbles are tasty and the plot palatable.