A dead singer/songwriter looking for a comeback is at the center of this second case for a Hudson Valley psychotherapist-turned–antiques dealer and her big, happy, dysfunctional, non-biological family.
Janet Petrocelli (To the Manor Dead, 2010, etc.) is delighted to offer Natasha Wolfson, an “ex-semi-name” singer, $5,000 for the jewelry and junk she’s unloading in connection with kick-starting her life at 29. But her pleasure in the transaction turns sour when Natasha is found dead at the bottom of Platte Cove. Det. Chevrona Williams, of the New York State Police, is satisfied that her death was an accident, or maybe suicide while of hippy-dippy mind, since Natasha seems to have been a keen proponent of better living through chemistry. But Janet, for reasons best known to her, is convinced that Natasha was murdered and that it’s her job to identify the killer. It’s true that Natasha’s parents, pop psychology gurus Howard and Sally Wolfson, her Czech boyfriend Pavel and Pavel’s wealthy landladies, mannish Lavinia Bump and her sister Octavia, to whom Pavel instantly transfers his affections, all seem sufficiently unbalanced to have pushed Natasha off a cliff. But then so do the series regulars, from Janet’s caterer friend Abba Turner to her pal George, a gay nurse who’s always in the throes of an unwise passion, to Josie Alvarez, the teenager who helped out in Janet’s Planet until she was spirited away by a mean-spirited pair of foster parents.
The mystery and its solution, sketched out rather than worked out, are mainly a pretext for introducing you to some amiable misfits, some exotic pets and Janet’s supremely gossipy narration.