Meredith Blevins. The Vanished Priestess (2004) 316 pp.
Publisher’s description: “The indomitable Annie Szabo has lost too many friends and loved ones, so the death of Margo Spanger hits hard. Margo, Annie’s neighbor, was a cultural icon with money and fame. Maybe too much. She used one of her projects, a New Age circus, to fund a women’s shelter. When Margo’s partner, Lili, goes missing the day of Margo’s death, the circus and shelter fall into disarray. It turns Annie’s world upside down, too. Her daughter is a resident of the women’s shelter and could become the next victim. More trouble: Annie’s mother-in-law, the Gypsy fortune-teller Madame Mina, plants her trailer in Annie’s yard with a vengeance, right next to Annie’s pet giraffes. Aided by an ex-cop and Mina’s plant medicine, Annie uncovers Margo’s past. She’d rattled the power elite, a trapeze flier, one jealous lover, a captain of industry, a long-lost son, and an ice-blond philanthropist. As Annie delves into their surprisingly tangled lives, one thing becomes clear—the killer is a master of disguises, and time is running out. However, when Annie and Madame Mina stop arguing long enough to put their heads together, the truth can’t hide. [The Vanished Priestess] continues the tale of the juicy Szabo family women. They learn that, under or outside the big top, anything and everything may be an illusion. Engaging and exotic, sexy and fun … an unforgettable mystery featuring a heroine who must walk a treacherous tightrope to save a new lover, her home, and her life.”