A Boston Brahmin–turned–woman of the people helps solve a murder.
Mercy Allcutt left Boston to get away from her stiff, wealthy, ultracritical parents. Thanks to an inheritance, she lives comfortably in Los Angeles, where she works as a secretary for private eye Ernie Templeton. Her parents have purchased a mansion in Pasadena and ordered Mercy and her sister, Chloe, who’s married to movie mogul Harvey Mann, to come for Thanksgiving week. Mercy takes her toy poodle Buttercup, sure to annoy her mother, who dislikes dogs. A séance her mother has arranged with Daisy Majesty is attended by Mercy, Chloe, and several neighbors: the Pinkertons, Mrs. Bissel, and movie costumier Harold Kincaid. Just as they exit the séance room with perfect alibis, another guest, Mrs. Winkworth, plunges to her death from the staircase. It quickly becomes obvious that the tiny lady could not have accidentally fallen over the high railing, and everyone agrees that she was too self-centered and nasty to kill herself, so it must be murder. Daisy calls her fiance, Sam Rotondo, a detective on the Pasadena force; Mercy’s parents insist that she call her boss to come solve the crime. Several other people are less lucky in their alibis: Mrs. Winkworth’s unhappy secretary; party-crashing movie star Lola de la Monica; Harvey Mann, who has just told Lola that her contract won’t be renewed; and the Allcutts’ Japanese houseboy, who were all upstairs. Even Mrs. Winkworth’s daughter and grandson loathe her. Daisy gets to hear most of the interviews when she takes notes for Ernie. Fancying herself a detective, she discovers several clues even as she makes herself a target.
Duncan’s decision to combine the talents of Daisy (Spirits Revived, 2014, etc.) and Mercy (Fallen Angels, 2011, etc.) doesn’t strengthen the mystery, but the period details are charming.