Erica “Ricki” Fontaine has inherited her uncle’s bar in Waterton, Ohio, so she uproots herself from her life in Bayside, Queens and relocates. The Top Shelf is a worn-out dive bar, but as she cleans, repairs, and modernizes, she creates a nice place to have lunch or dinner, not just the local beer joint. And soon after she takes over the bar, she finds her ex-husband dead on one of its stools.
Suspected by the police, Ricki begins her own investigation into Michael’s murder, especially after his husband, Adam, shows up. The pair work along with the bar’s two employees to serve patrons, and Ricki cycles through theory after theory and suspect after suspect. It’s not until an act of nature intervenes that she discovers who’s behind the murder and their motive.
As she searches for the truth, Ricki deals with the clear affections of detective Gabriel Russell and newspaper editor/owner Logan Parker. As each tries to protect her from the violence that has consumed her quest to solve Michael’s murder, they compete for her affections, but Ricki’s singular focus is on her investigation, not romance.
Lolli Powell has written an atypical mystery in an atypical setting, with a finesse managed by few writers. Listening to the walls talk is revelatory in her hands.