This fourth in a series (A Playdate with Death, 2002, etc.) finds part-time p.i./full-time mommy Juliet Appelbaum resolving three related murders while grappling with morning sickness.
Juliet’s pal Lilly, who began her climb to Hollywood fame with an appearance in Juliet’s screenwriter husband’s horror flick, has a complicated family history. After years of therapy with Dr. Blackmore, whose reputation rests on his analysis of her case, “Little Girl Q,” she remembers accidentally shooting her mom, Trudy-Ann, in Mexico when she was only a child. In the room at the time, she thinks, were her stepfather Polaris, now leader of the Church of Cosmological Unity, and her baby stepbrother Jupiter, now a relapsed druggie charged with capital murder for killing Polaris’s mantrap new wife Chloe, a former stripper, a blackmailer, and Jupiter’s sexual playmate. Who was Chloe blackmailing? Surely not Lilly’s stepparents, love-hungry Ralph and noble politico Beverly Green. Unless, of course, she knew that they too had been in Trudy-Ann’s room on that fateful day, and along with Dr. Blackmore, had been part of the same sleep-with-everybody California commune thirty years ago. Casting suspicion on all and sundry for the murders of Trudy-Ann and Chloe, Juliet has to rethink her surmises when Ralph is killed and Chloe’s mom seems to be next on the list.
Waldman is at her witty best when dealing with children, carpooling, and first-trimester woes, but is no slouch at explaining the pitfalls of False Memory Syndrome either.