As reporter Irene Kelly investigates her Aunt Briana's death, she learns all about the longstanding feuds between several branches of her extended family and becomes the number one suspect in a murder case. Kelly's part of the family split with her Aunt Briana and her husband decades ago for reasons that Kelly has never really understood, but which involve bigamy, murder,illiteracy, and of course, money. Kelly's first task is to locate her cousin Travis, who she hasn't seen since childhood, and inform him of his mother's untimely death. Next, Kelly has to protect him from whoever murdered his mother. While investigating the case, Kelly encounters a violent man in a wet suit, a slightly unhinged inventor, a storyteller named Cosmo, and some unsavory residents of a trailer park - and learns that she is distantly related to most of these odd characters.
This is Jan Burke's sixth book about the adventures of Irene Kelly, a sassy journalist who lives in sunny southern California with her husband (a police detective), drives a Karmann Ghia, and seems to be a magnet for trouble. In this case, the trouble is that everyone is lying, even people with good intentions. Kelly's cousin is a capable and seasoned liar, a skill that comes in handy in several sticky situations. When deceit isn't enough, Kelly's best friend Rachel leaps to their aid with flying fists and tough talk. Fans of mysteries by Sue Grafton and Sara Paretsky are likely to enjoy Jan Burke's writing. Irene Kelly is a likeable, approachable heroine - an ordinary middle-aged woman who manages to get the best of the bad guys by relying on her wits and her friends. -Jill Marquis
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From Kirkus Reviews
Who's buried in the grave Irene Kelly's sister Barbara had already picked out for herself in the family plot? Realizing that it's her long-unseen aunt, Briana Maguire, a file clerk who became a hit-and-run victim two weeks ago, leads Irene into only deeper mysteries. Why did Briana disinherit her rolling-stone son Travis in favor of Irene, who hadn't seen her for 25 years? What exactly did the family quarrel that kept Irene and Briana apart have to do with Briana's bigamous husband, Arthur Sperry (ne' Spanning), or the murder 20 years ago of Arthur's first wife, sugar-beet heiress Gwendolyn DeMont? Why is the DeMont murder, so long dormant, now threatening Irene's life via fires and bombs? Who is Harold Richmond, the unscrupulous private eye who's been stalking Irene, working for? And how can the rifts--chasms, really--in the DeMont and Spanning and Maguire families be mended after all the suspicion and distrust over adultery and bigamy and murder have festered for all these years? The questions are reminiscent of Ross Macdonald at his thorniest. But Burke, whose return to straight detection after the imperiled-hostage scenario of Hocus (1997) produces the biggest and most complex of her six novels, has Macdonald's sense of family doom without his control of subplots and clues or his economy in managing revelations. The result is a warmly detailed extended-family portrait that conveys a constant sense of menace without providing a compelling payoff or, in retrospect, a strong central premise. -- Copyright ©1998, Kirkus Associates, LP. All rights reserved.
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