A telemarketer hikes out to the Arizona hinterlands to claim an unlikely inheritance from an even more unlikely mother.
Alanis McLachlan was never exactly close to her mother. Maybe, as a series of interspersed flashbacks suggests, it’s because Athena Passalis, or whatever her name really was, was a con artist who lived on the edge. Maybe it’s because she involved her daughter in her scams from the cradle. Maybe it’s because when Alanis reached a certain tender age, Athena showed some interest in pimping her out. Whatever the reason, the two haven’t spoken for 20 years, and Alanis is amazed to learn that her mother retired to little Berdache, set up shop as a tarot reader and held forth at the White Magic Five & Dime for years before an interrupted burglar killed her and passed the establishment to Athena’s daughter. Despite the assurances of dishy detective Josh Logan, however, Alanis is far from certain that her mother really was killed by a burglar. She prods Logan to give her a list of three people who’d filed complaints against Athena. Not only do all three complaints seem to represent legitimate grievances—an endangered marriage, some haunted jewelry Athena appropriated, a doddering fiance she beguiled—but Alanis wonders if they’re just the tip of the iceberg. With everyone in town apparently running a scam of their own, it’s hard for Alanis to spot the killer. Readers with half an eye open shouldn’t be fooled.
Hockensmith (World’s Greatest Sleuth, 2011, etc.) and Falco provide their tough-cookie heroine with such an appealing line of patter that it’s no surprise when Logan asks her, “Are you nuts or do you just not give a crap?”