A sculptor’s very first show is bound to stir up butterflies, and when the sculptor is neurotic, oppositional motormouth Maggie Kean, there’s so much to worry about—her clothes, her hair, the food, the uncomfortably enthusiastic cheerleading of her police detective swain Sam Villari’s close-knit family, the unexpected appearance of her own estranged father and his second wife—that she has barely any energy left to worry about the likely reactions of the Monument, Colorado, press. And that’s just as well, because by the time the local art reviewer arrives, fashionably late, The Outlook, where owner/manager Mark Gossett is displaying Maggie’s work, is already festooned with crime-scene tape and crawling with Villari’s associates. Taking Mark’s friend, earthy collector Henry Duran, into the studio space in the back to show him a piece a little edgier than what’s on display, Maggie’s found something edgy indeed: a body stuffed into the roaring pottery kiln. It’s just like Maggie’s manic debut (A Dying Art, 2001), except that this time the victim, Outlook board member Jeff Riley, is a stranger to her—and remains on virtually the same terms to readers, who won’t mind that Maggie’s spending more time canoodling with Villari and swapping aperçus with Duran than investigating the murder of an unknown who, after all, has nothing to do with her except that he spoiled her opening.
More Murder Lite—a clue here, some snooping there, an episode of soul-searching over whether a well-intentioned break-in constitutes a mortal or venial sin—spiced with heavy romance.