The Self-Made Widow

Life in West Windsor, N.J., can be dull for a former Queens girl whose career as an FBI agent was thwarted by her unplanned first pregnancy. Fortunately, the town keeps producing corpses. Andrea Stern--who already had four kids in Suburban Dicks, the debut crime novel from Fabian Nicieza--returns in the equally amusing The Self-Made Widow, in which she continues to butt in where she's not wanted, now with her fifth (and last, she swears!) child in tow.

This time the dead local is Derek Goode, a 43-year-old lawyer who suffered a middle-of-the-night heart attack. He also happens to be the husband of Andrea's friend Molly. She tells Andrea she fears that, given Derek's age, his life insurance company will demand an autopsy; she chokes up at the "thought of him being cut apart just to find what we already know." Trading on clout that she earned after solving a murder the previous year, Andrea convinces the town to nix the postmortem. Nevertheless, when she runs into her partner on the murder case, publicity-mad local journalist Kenny Lee, she finds that they've reached the same conclusion: Molly killed her husband.

Like its predecessor, The Self-Made Widow entertains, amuses and outsmarts en route to its grade-A, capital-D dramatic moment, although this one doesn't require a cleanup crew. Nicieza digs deep into Andrea's and Kenny's respective pasts, shedding light on the "borderline spectrum murder savant," as one of Andrea's friends describes her, and the "dashing suburban muckraker," as Kenny defines himself. --Nell Beram, author and freelance writer

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