That local theater diva of a certain age, Vivian Borne—a.k.a. Brandy’s Mother—is sheriff of Serenity County now, but still hot on the trail of precious antiques. On a tour of the historic Wentworth Mansion, the two dedicated dealers are aglow at the treasure trove of priceless objects . . . never dreaming everything will turn to ashes, hours later.
A charred corpse in the ruins is identified as the mansion’s caretaker, a one-time flame of Vivian’s. But Tony Cassato—Brandy’s beau and Serenity’s Chief of Police—throws cold water on Sheriff Vivian’s suspicions of murder. Then Brandy spots a certain familiar item for sale on the Internet, and Mother suspects the fire is just a smoke screen.
When their doggie detective, Sushi the shih tzu, sniffs out a second body in the woods, Mother and Brandy turn up the heat on a homicidal torcher. Because any killer who takes on the Borne girls is playing with fire.
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Allan's delightfully quirky 15th whodunit featuring septuagenarian antiques expert Vivian Borne and her dutiful sidekick and daughter, Brandy Borne (after 2019s Antique Ravin'), opens with the duo going to the courthouse in Serenity, Iowa, to "answer questions regarding some unorthodox' actions" newly elected county sheriff Vivian used a few weeks earlier on her first case. Vivian and Brandy later tour the historic Wentworth mansion, which is filled with valuable antiques. When the house burns down with all its highly insured contents, it appears to be a case of arson. A charred body found amid the ruins turns out to be the mansion's owner, James Sutter, an old boyfriend of Vivian's. Vivian suspects James was murdered, and won't let Serenity police chief Tony Cassato, Brandy's boyfriend, tell her otherwise. Two more murders raise the ante. Vivian and other characters who occasionally share narrative duties with Brandy provide fresh viewpoints on the investigation. For those fond of feel-good cozies, Allan (the pseudonym of Barbara and Max Allan Collins) delivers.