How did a request for a simple bloodhound search of a vineyard leapfrog into a murder investigation? Alice Tricklebank and her bloodhound Audrey awaken to gunshots only to find the body of Guthrie Huff in the main house and another body among the tendrilled grapevines. Like it or not, Alice is again entangled in a stiff-necked investigation with suspects holding secrets and scars close to their chests. But this time her dear friends, Lena and Julian, are not immediately available to cobble a story together. Alice is on her own in California.
The police begin their investigation by questioning Alice’s presence. Did Guthrie believe Alice’s dog could find her son’s grave? Detective Joshua Galati follows with more questions: is there a link between Cade’s seven-month disappearance and his mother’s death. Galati is uneasy with Alice’s amateur conclusion that Guthrie was the first to shoot. The police identify the second body as Xavier Nettle, a bartender at a biker bar called The Hungry Fool. But what was he doing at the vineyard in the middle of the night?
Eleanora, the grandmother, with her oversize hope that her grandson Cade is still alive, wants him to come home. The lawyer Roddy Merritt has the paperwork prepared for Cade to be named Eleanora’s heir. But Guthrie’s sister Rayne is shocked to read in an online newspaper of Guthrie’s death and dredges up their history as she confronts Eleanora. Elka, the house manager adds perspective by spilling dark secrets of Cade’s brutal father.
When Alice’s daughter Jess is pulled into the investigation because she is a yoga friend of Guthrie, Alice worries. If the investigation becomes too intense, her protective daughter might not allow Henry to spend the summer with her.
Alice finds she’s not alone in the investigation afterall. A policeman back home calls to explain the significance of wadcutters, and her granddaughter works to hack into Cade’s secret file on his tablet. Witt, a young private eye, contacts Alice because he carries too much information about a revenge site and a bad guy named Noose. Then her friends Lena and Julian cut short their California vacation to reunite the snooping posse from Limekiln. But Lena’s plot to sing bawdy songs at The Hungry Fool causes Alice’s knees to jump with fear. Is it a bad idea or just plain loopy?
So many questions to answer. Was Cade murdered or did he leave seven months ago? If he left, why didn’t he take his identification, money, and Jeep? Who killed Guthrie? Why did Noose threaten the Huff family before Cade disappeared and then again two weeks before Alice arrived at the vineyard?
Rib-poking time hustles Alice to butt into lives if she plans to attend her grandson’s graduation. Skyping for the past year with family is no replacement for hugs. And Audrey becomes a prankster, miffed that her favorite toy was left behind in Limekiln. Alice promised her grandson that she’d have her keister planted on the bleachers for the ceremony. Can she keep her promise? Tick-tock. Better hurry, Alice!