A minuscule pooch drags coffee-shop owner Maggy Thorsen (The Importance of Being Urnest, 2017, etc.) into yet another round of homicide.
Her introductory dinner with fiance Jake Pavlik’s parents cut short by the sudden illness of his mom, Maggy decides to drive Jake’s car back from Chicago to Brookhills, Wisconsin, by herself while he stands vigil at the hospital. But on the road home, she sees a Chihuahua scamper across the road and picks up the tiny dog before it gets hit by a car. Her Old English sheepdog, Frank, is less than thrilled by the unexpected visitor, so the next day Maggy returns Mocha to the address on her dog tag, the home of her owners, George and Marian Satterwite. But instead of George and Marian, Maggy finds her own dogsitter, Arial Kingston, waiting for the wayward mutt. Some suspicious-sounding firecrackers in the background and a visit from the Satterwites’ cranky neighbor, Ryan Lyle, make Maggy worry about Arial. So the next day, she and her partner, Sarah Kingston, who just happens to be Arial’s aunt, go back to the Satterwites’ to check on the girl and find no sign of Arial or Mocha. Instead, they run into Marian Satterwite, just back from Australia. And for once, it isn’t corpse-magnet Maggy who stumbles across a dead body. It’s Marian. The unidentified dead guy is the first in a cavalcade of players—some deceased, some missing, some canine—none of whom are really any of Maggy’s business but who occupy her time anyway while her business sputters along on its own.
Balzo, who usually keeps her plots under fairly strict control, unleashes a whopper that quickly devolves from mystery to shaggy dog story.