The third outing for 37-year-old Claire Montrose (Square in the Face, 2000, etc.) finds her with newly frosted hair and a dishy long-distance beau, Dante Bonner, with a high-status job (curator at the Metropolitan Museum of Art) who has promised to fly in for the 20th reunion of Oregon’s Minor High School. At check-in at Ye Olde Pioneer Village Theme Park, the clerk hands Claire a package that’s been left for her anonymously: a hand-carved heart-shaped box with a picture of her snipped from the graduation yearbook pasted inside. As former classmates saunter through the rustic lobby, Claire spies Sawyer Fairchild, former teacher of the year now running for governor; Dick Crane, the nerd, who has metamorphosed into computer billionaire; Cindy Weaver, prom queen and indefatigable cheerleader, now a relentlessly vivacious matron, and Logan West, class schizoid, recently released from his digs at a mental hospital. Also on hand: Jessica, who became, briefly, a soap star; Kyle, who turned to local law enforcement; and frayed-blond Belinda, who produced a look-alike daughter, Vanessa. Cindy is the first to die, inelegantly, in the parking lot, then Belinda, in her hotel room. Many heart-shaped boxes pop up, plus hints of past romances. Naturally, Claire, with laughably little help from Dante or Kyle, decides who’s been naughty and who’s still nice in time to meet a delayed check-out deadline.
It’s nice to know that sex ed. was so well attended those 20 years ago. And that although Claire has left her job issuing specialty license plates, vanity tags still end each chapter and are deciphered in an appendix.