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on 26 July 2008
Kate Williams, a criminal defense attorney, is "encouraged" to take a vacation by her partner in their Chicago law firm. High-strung, overworked, and wound way too tight, Kate slices and dices everyone she meets beginning with a fellow passenger on the flight from Chicago to Tucson. With visions of two weeks of quiet at a dude ranch, Kate arrives at a sprawling complex decorated in 1950s lawn art. However, when she is taken to the one rustic cottage on the property, she envisions quiet walks through pine forests observing indigenous flora and fauna and viewing desert vistas. It's too bad that she witnesses the removal of the body of a murdered illegal immigrant.

There are two possible suspects: the people who run the Lazy ZZ Ranch or the handsome, enigmatic Chris McKay, a rancher on whose property the body was found. Kate, whose razor tongue never fails her, ends up recovering from injuries at McKay's home. While she is with McKay, Kate stumbles upon the body of another murdered immigrant. Is she safe with McKay? Will she be safe if she returns to the Lazy ZZ Ranch? Kate uses her analytical skills to figure out the mystery.

This first novel is hugely entertaining. Miss Bartness has a real gift for humor and dialog, and although Kate Williams is not the most sympathetic character, she is so funny, interesting and complex that you want her to kick butt. "How to Ruin a Vacation" is a quick, fun read.
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