Anastasia Pollock, recently widowed (hubby dropped dead at a roulette table in Vegas) and with two teenage boys and a bizarre mother-in-law living under her roof, may be a smart crafts editor at American Woman magazine, but she’s out of her depth when it comes to What Went Wrong In My Marriage. Do we believe that a man could be a gambling addict, stripping the family coffers of all savings, investments and college funds, and incurring a mountain of debt—including $50,000 owed to the mob—without his wife having one little clue that something was wrong? Author Lois Winston takes a page from the Stephanie Plum school of wise-cracking heroines in crafting Anastasia’s character, but adds in a tad more innocence and willingness to forgive.
The titular glue gun victim is the magazine’s fashion editor, Marlys Vandenburg, found in Anastasia’s office. The craftslady becomes suspect numero uno after detectives find a photo of Marlys apparently entwined with Anastasia’s recently deceased Karl. Enter detectives Batswin and Robbins, along with a slew of amazing characters, some human, some not-so, who inhabit Anastasia’s home. Manifesto (canine) and Catherine the Great (feline) are frequently upstaged by Ralph (parrot), whose repertoire consists entirely of Shakespearean quotes, wittily timed to the plot action. All these coexist with Anastasia’s assorted relatives, in one now-impoverished household.
Despite the distractions (and the addition of a hunky tenant who’s moving in over the garage), Anastasia gets to work finding the murderer (what else will get her off the hook?!), who must surely be one of her co-workers. Nobody didn’t hate the supercilious Marlys—from her beleaguered assistant, Erica; to the editor-in-chief, Naomi; to the magazine’s former owner, Hugo, who got dumped by the now-dead fashionista; to Vittorio, a designer recently trashed in Marlys’s column. Anastasia must also outwit an unknown character named Ricardo who calls daily, seeking 50 grand apparently owed him by the now-disgraced Karl.
Anastasia spends a bit too much time playing the victim in this otherwise witty and wacky merry-go-round, but readers who enjoy clever repartee and the clamor of a household on the verge of craziness, mixed with a down-home bit of sleuthing, will enjoy getting in on the ground floor of this new series.