When home repair queen/amateur sleuth Jacobia Triptree (Wreck the Halls, 2001) falls off a ladder while fixing her gutters, the resulting head trauma gives her a case of Benign Positional Vertigo and the conviction that her nosey old neighbor Harriet Hollingsworth has been murdered. Impecunious Harriet has certainly disappeared, leaving behind her house, assorted debts, and one boot, sock inside, in another neighbor’s compost pile. Jake’s conviction of foul play may be less benign than the vertigo, because when Harriet’s body is found, like Poe’s Black Cat, immured behind a wall in her house, sabotage endangers her husband Wade and her son Sam. Jake immediately suspects the man who bought Harriet’s house from the bank—Harry Markle, an ex-cop who claims to have saved Jake as a child from a explosion set by her anarchist father—but Jake’s dog Prill loves Harry. Besides, there are plenty of other suspicious newcomers in tiny Eastport: Jake’s temporary lodger, Roy McCall, who’s directing a music video on location there; Wyatt Evert, a belligerent environmental tour operator who’s lost a client to a fatal accident; and quiet, mysterious Lian Ash, who is repairing Jake’s foundation. The menace to Jake and her family mounts until a final explosion echoes the deadly blast from Jake’s childhood.
As before, Graves believes that if one subplot is good, three or four is that much better. If you can forgive all the squibs and sparklers, the main fireworks provide a show that’s entertaining, however loud and flashy.