In this Bay Area cozy, a body in the freezer and a friend in jail throw a professional organizer’s life into disarray.
In Feliz’s (Scheduled to Death, 2017, etc.) latest Maggie McDonald mystery, Maggie again must clean up a murder mess, this time before she assists friends Stephen Laird and Jason Mueller in organizing and storing the couple’s stuff prior to a home remodel. Police detective Jason is out of state with a rapid-response team of officers the morning Maggie and Stephen are to meet at the home to strategize a packing plan. But when Maggie arrives, the always-punctual retired Marine isn’t there, and his beloved mastiff, Munchkin (who’s Maggie’s golden retriever’s BFF), eventually limps home solo, bloodied but able to recover. Maggie learns Stephen is in jail, charged with the murder of Mr. Xiang, whose body was discovered in the freezer of his restaurant. Cops found Stephen at the scene, wiping down tables. In Jason’s absence, Stephen will only talk to Maggie. She realizes he’s protecting Xiang’s employee, Rafi Maldonado, an undocumented teenager who was home-birthed in the U.S. The night of the murder, Stephen and Munchkin intervened when assailants were beating Rafi, only to be pounded themselves by the thugs who’d killed Xiang. Because he didn’t want Rafi connected to the murder, Stephen gave him his car keys and erased the teen’s fingerprints from the scene. Now, instead of systemizing toss/donate/keep piles, Maggie must prove Stephen is innocent and Rafi is legal. Perhaps one of the homeless people Xiang and Rafi regularly fed behind the restaurant witnessed the beatings? After previously solving murders in the series, recent transplants Maggie and her family are now mainstays in the upscale community filled with diverse, colorful characters. But now, with concern and compassion, Feliz has Maggie delve into the problems of homeless, poor, and immigrant populations. Yet in spite of societal concerns and murder, the tone of this well-written book is hopeful, occasionally playful. Feliz writes confidently, having done her homework on such things as immigration legal issues and even how to breeze through jailhouse metal detectors (carry your passport, keys; don’t wear jewelry, zippers, or an underwire bra).
Feliz again delivers a well-written, immensely likable story that can stand alone, although readers will want to read previous books in the series.