“This isn’t a romance novel,” snaps gutsy, gamine sculptor Maggie Kean to her best friend Lisa, who’s gotten just a tad too inquisitive about her love life. Ah, but cara mia, you couldn’t be more wrong; a romance novel is exactly what Davis’s series debut is. The murder plot is mere pretense: Does anyone care who killed Maggie’s beloved elderly neighbor, whose day-old corpse is found clogging up Maggie’s septic system? Elizabeth Boyer’s greedy grandkids Cassie and Will are just irritants, her late husband’s illegitimate daughter a speck on the screen. The real action here is the thrust-and-parry between Maggie and sultry, smoldering Sam Villari, the police detective whose liquid brown eyes bore straight into her soul. Maggie hates Italian guys (like her ex-husband), but Villari’s persistent. When she’s rude to him, he drags her off to meet his mother. When she’s evasive, he runs his finger slowly down her cheek and covers her mouth with electric kisses. When she dresses like a bag lady, he professes his desire to carry her upstairs and make love to her until morning. When she defies his orders to stop investigating on her own, he wraps her in his arms, exuding “the sheer smell of masculinity,” and tries to take care of her. After all, isn’t she the most “irritating, annoying, argumentative . . . impetuous, impulsive,” and adorable person he’s ever met?
It may begin with a plugged-up toilet, but inane storyline and trite prose land Davis’s maiden voyage right in the crapper.