A new home spells nothing but trouble for newlyweds Marla and Dalton Vail (Shear Murder, 2012, etc.).
Homeowners associations often see themselves as the last bastion against suburban decline, protecting property values from tacky lawn decorations and oversized fences. As president of Royal Oaks HOA, Alan Krabber is a law unto himself. Last year, he nearly forced a couple into bankruptcy by making them tear down a second-story extension they had erected without a permit. But Krabber keeps his boat parked in his driveway—a clear violation of deed restrictions—until Dalton, his next-door neighbor, challenges him. To make matters worse, the fence Krabber erects to hide the offending boat stands partially on the Vails’ property. So when Krabber is killed, police detective Dalton, named a person of interest, is abruptly yanked from the case. That leaves Marla, already distracted by the resignation of her trusty receptionist, Luis, and her promise to her mother to host this year’s family Seder, with the job of solving the crime. Her investigative method—accosting members of the HOA, as well as local businessmen who had contentious dealings with Krabber, and asking them point-blank about their quarrels with the dead man—earns Marla a conk on the head and some close brushes with a variety of toxins. Whether she will survive long enough to cook the Passover brisket (recipe included) becomes an increasingly tough question.
Marla seems to have the learning curve of a slug, since, as of her 11th outing, she still hasn’t figured out that accusing folks of murder will make some of them want to kill you.