Poppy Rice is home in her D.C. apartment with very little furniture and lots of boxes she still hasn't unpacked after five years. It's three a.m. and she's suffering from her usual insomnia. While polishing her nails, she watches a tape of the CBS Evening News--Dan Rather is interviewing convicted ax-murderer Rona Leigh Glueck. In ten days, Rona Leigh will be the first woman executed in Texas since the Civil War. Poppy pauses the tape on a close-up of Rona Leigh's small, delicate hands. Okay, she thinks, so maybe it was a lightweight ax.
Poppy digs out Rona Leigh's case file to find--along with the grisly crime-scene photos--a physician's testimony that glee, not muscle, gave her the strength to commit the crime. When her public defender asked the crime lab for help determining whether such a small woman could physically commit these murders, he was turned away for not filing the correct paperwork.
With the reluctant support of her colleague and sometime lover, Joe Barnow, the relentless Poppy reopens the investigation to find out if Rona Leigh deserves to receive a certificate that will read: Death by Legal Homicide as Ordered by the State of Texas.
Funny and fearless, Poppy Rice is just about unstoppable.
Mary-Ann Tirone Smith is the author of several novels, including An American Killing, which was chosen as a New York Times Notable Book. She has lived all of her life in Connecticut except for two years in Cameroon where she served as a Peace Corps volunteer.