Sixth in a series featuring Annie Laurence (Something Wicked, etc.), owner of a bookstore devoted to mystery fiction and married to handsome Max Darling, who runs something called Confidential Commissions. Max's mother is Laurel--five times marfled, gorgeous, whip-smart, into mysticism and recently arrived at Max and Annie's new home on South Carolina's Broward's Rock Island, an enclave of the rich and successful. Outstanding among them is shipping tycoon Howard Cahill, who married vacuous, beautiful, promiscuous Sydney after the death of his first wife. Texas lawyer Buck Burger and enameled wife Billye; retired General Colville Houghton and much younger second wife Eileen; dentist George Graham and second wife Lisa; Graham's son Joel and Cahill's son Carleton, along with Annie Max and Laurel (who's immediately drawn to Howard) and a host of others, are guests at a lavish Valentine's Day ball given by the Cahills. Sydney flirts outrageously as usual, but the party ends in tragedy when Annie finds Sydney's battered corpse on the estate grounds. Howard and Laurel are soon arrested by bumptious country official Posey, setting Annie off on an interminable round of interviews and list-making that's complicated by a second murder. Finally, it's Laurel, free on bail, who engineers the long-in-coming denouement in a story irritatingly peppered with references to authors and characters in the mystery genre, including cats named Agatha and Dorothy L. A tedious tangle that owes more to Jacqueline Susann than to Christie or Sayers.