Something for nothing turns out to be a really bad buy.
When antique dealer Claire Oh admires a battered old chest in a basement, the owners, thinking it’s trash, present it to her. Believing it’s a genuine, extremely rare Westman Sunflower Chest, Claire carts it home, sells it to Horace Cutler, another dealer, for a nice profit, and agrees to drive it to the Campbell and LaSalle country workshops for restoring. When Cutler gets it back, though, he screams that it’s a fake. Then he turns up dead with a lovely carved bone handle knife in him and Claire is accused of murder, which does not sit well with her husband, a retired police detective, and his new p.i. apprentice Jane Wheel, who salvages antiques herself, mostly from yard sales, flea markets, and street corners (Dead Guy’s Stuff, 2002, etc.). Jane and her best friend, the ebulliently gay floral and interior designer Tim, reconnoiter the toney Campbell and LaSalle enclave, a live-in community of artisans, and befriend Rick Moore, who may or may not have restored that chest. When Rick is drowned, Sgt. Murkel closes the premises, and the race is on to find the killer before the killer finds Jane.
The plot is merely serviceable, but Jane and Tim, who fantasize about their pretend offspring, the darling Patina and the smart Veneer, are absolutely charming. Added bonus: the amusing admonitions to pack rats that head up each chapter.