This time it’s personal, as paralegal Odelia Grey (Secondhand Stiff, 2013, etc.) investigates the murder of a quadriplegic rugby player.
Murder Ball, the aficionados’ name for quad rugby, is not for the squeamish. Played on a regulation basketball court by athletes with limited use of their arms and legs, the game depends on bashing your wheelchair full-tilt into your opponent’s. But even in a sport designed for maximum mayhem, Peter Tanaka had a reputation as a dirty player. And when Odelia and her husband, Greg Stevens—a fan who’s barred from playing the game because he’s only a paraplegic—watch Rocky Henderson of the Laguna Lunatics bash Tanaka’s head into the court, they know he’s finally stepped over the line. Tanaka dies but not from the beating; someone’s spiked his sports drink with cyanide. Odelia determines to find out who. Her investigation is sidetracked, however, by demands from her importunate boss, Mike Steele, who’s gotten himself into some kind of scrape that ended in a fight in a noted dive bar. Steele tries to spin the incident as a car crash. He wants Odelia to cover for him, bringing his work home and keeping the office afloat while his face heals. While she’s juggling Steele’s demands and her inquiry into Tanaka’s death, Steele’s boss, Simon Tobin, comes to Odelia with an offer she can’t refuse. He wants her to tail his mother, socialite Fanny Albright Tobin, and find out whether her new best friend has designs on the Tobin family fortune. What’s a plus-sized paralegal to do? As usual, Odelia does her best, and her best turns out to be not too shabby.
Jaffarian deftly juggles three franchises—Odelia’s, plus that of Granny Apples and the Madison Rose vampire series—but Odelia does better when she can focus more detection on fewer puzzles.