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Lark Dailey faces a weekend at the mountain lodge of her mother's mentor, poet Dai Llewellyn, without enthusiasm, but Lark's detective-lover Jay finds the proximity of a notorious pot-farm interesting. The setting, a remote Sierra lake, is idyllic, perfect for canoeing and wind-surfing, not to mention fireworks. Neither Lark nor Jay expects the Fourth of July to end in murder.
Surrounded by old friends, ex-lovers, devoted servants--and someone who does not love him--the poet collapses. He has been poisoned by tincture of larkspur in his Campari. The irony is not lost on Lark, whose bookstore is called Larkspur Books, nor on Jay, who is tapped to investigate.
Jay's investigation is complicated by the murder of two key witnesses and by bizarre embellishments in all three killings. The embellishments suggest that something less straightforward than greed is driving the killer, something like madness. The tangle of suspicion widens to include not only the poet's weekend guests but even Lark's charming, book-loving clerk.
Lark worries that her mother, who comes to town after the San Francisco funeral, may be in danger too, because someone does not like poets, and Mary Dailey, a noted poet, is Llewellyn's literary executor. Her co-executor may have his own reasons for wanting to control the relics of Dai Llewellyn's past. As Jay awaits a search warrant, a cocktail party of survivors gathers to honor Lark's mother, and Lark determines to crash it in time to prevent another poisoning. Unfortunately, she's not sure who the murderer is.