As police chief Arly Hanks, last seen in Much Ado in Maggody , dreams of a romantic trip to Italy, chaos looms over her small Arkansas town. Mayor Jim Bob Buchanon is planning to open Jim Bob's SuperSaver Buy 4 Less, a supermarket with picnic pavilion and delicatessen that will drive other local food purveyors out of business. The grand opening, however, brings disaster when 23 food samplers are felled with suspected food poisoning. As Arly fights to keep the supermarket closed until the source of the poison is determined, she finds among the suspects her mother, Ruby Bee, proprietor of the local bar and grill, and the owners of the other two food stores in the area. Meanwhile, Jim Bob's partner, Lamont Petrel, an outland smoothie, disappears, giving rise to conjecture that he is the poisoner--and the rapist of a high-school girl. Before Arly resolves the case, another poisoning leads to murder and an ugly family secret is exposed. Hess's often broad-humored Maggody series gets steadily better as her characters become less caricatured, more fully developed.
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