cover image Red Hot Murder

Red Hot Murder

Joanne Pence, . . Avon, $6.99 (356pp) ISBN 978-0-06-075805-9

At the start of Pence's amusing 13th Angie Amalfi mystery, the sometime chef and her San Francisco homicide detective fiancé, Paavo Smith, are off to reconnect with childhood friends of Paavo's in Jackpot, Ariz., where they'll be staying at the Ghost Hollow Guest Ranch (ostriches, not cattle). On arrival in town, Paavo's old chum, Ned Paulson, fails to meet them as planned. Unfortunately, while off looking for a long-missing stagecoach containing a famous chef from the Waldorf and a pile of money, Ned has been bashed in the head and left in a desert cave. Somehow, during a cook-off for the annual ranch picnic against a local diner owner—who garnishes her rabbit stew with horned toad—Angie manages to figure out the complex inner workings of a very small town (pop. 917) and find the reality behind the polite faces. Good repartee between the lovers, funny (think amorous ostrich) situations, a secret marriage, a surprising dénouement and a great recipe for bourbon pecan pie make this the perfect vacation read. (Feb.)