Think Zoe Hayes’s life will quiet down now that she’s pregnant and engaged? Think again.
The Philadelphia Psychiatric Institute is hurting for money, and Zoe’s art-therapy program is under the axe. As she enters the sixth month of pregnancy, her haywire hormones are supplemented by Braxton-Hicks contractions. Her headline problems, however, concern Walter Hayes, the father she quarreled with years ago over his compulsive gambling and never mentioned to her fiancé, homicide detective Nick Stiles. Called out to Walter’s Mount Airy home by his concerned next-door neighbor, dog-trainer Lettie Kinkaid, she and her six-year-old daughter Molly get into his basement only to find the corpse of his main squeeze, Beatrice Kendall, choked to death on pari-mutuel slips. The police, naturally suspecting Walter, are glad to see him clapped into assisted living, but the body count keeps rising anyway: another neighbor, one of Lettie’s boarders, even the bodyguard Nick’s arranged for Zoe, whose constant brushes with violence and death prompt her obstetrician to murmur fretfully that she should “take it easy. Avoid stress.” The kitchen-sink revelations involve not only ancient Hayes family skeletons but a neighborhood conspiracy that would be laughable if it didn’t prophesy headlines.
Jones (The River Killings, 2006, etc.) is always better with everyday conflict than serious crime, but Zoe’s overstuffed third work knits ordinary tribulations together with the other kind more convincingly than ever before.