Acclaimed West Texas chef Brett Baldwin and his “Tonto on steroids” Jud Garcia are called to the scene of a gruesome torture-homicide in the funky border town of Terlingua. The victim is hometown girl-turned-Hollywood star Meridyth Morgan’s uncle: craggy-faced, ponytailed blues legend T.J. “Rattlesnake” Ramirez.
Rattlesnake had lived for years in a kind of holy poverty, but his recordings--starting with the mega-hit “Nothin’ ‘Bout Texas”-- sold millions, reaching back to the 1950s. He was a beloved icon, an eccentric piece of Texas fauna who performed live only once a year, attracting thousands to an outdoor concert to close out Terlingua’s storied chili cook-off. He spent the past few years keeping company with Alison Dodd, an enigmatic former Catholic nun and border political activist, and rumors of a dark secret going back to the anti-communist witch hunts of Sen. Joseph McCarthy have followed him. Now, everything about his murder implies that this legend had something somebody wanted. Real bad.
In the hours and days after the discovery of Ramirez’s mangled body inside his ramshackle camper-school bus compound, the international news media fill Terlingua and nearby Marfa with the circus for which they are famous. The spotlight shifts with the arrival of a refined older woman abandoned by Ramirez long ago, who insists she’s still his wife and heir. And if she weren’t complication enough, the couple’s sexy wild-child of a daughter shows up too. Each is looking to claim Ramirez’s fortune, if one can be found, ahead of Alison Dodd. And each sees Brett as something else worth claiming, at least for a night or two along the way.
Suddenly, Brett, Jud and Meridyth have a lot more on their menu than another steamy, Texas-spicy “bowl of red.”