A Welsh/Canadian psychologist gets to practice her craft at a Vegas birthday party gone bad.
All the guests for Miss Shirley Petrosian’s party at the top of the Tsar! Casino and Hotel have been hand-selected and carefully vetted for security purposes. In fact, criminologist Cait Morgan and her very significant other, retired detective Bud Anderson, barely squeak in. Between midnight and dessert, Cait’s in the ladies’ room when she hears a loud metallic sound, and a blackout sends the guests into panic. When the auxiliary lights come on, Miss Shirley is skewered to her chair by a Russian saber, putting an end to future birthdays. The guests soon learn that in addition to dying so gruesomely, Miss Shirley had inconsiderately kept the secret of her new security code to herself. So for 12 hours, they’re all locked in a private dining room at the top of a giant Fabergé-style egg with a killer in their midst. Bud tries to calm the guests, and Cait calls on her people-reading skills and her eidetic memory when she invites them to tell their life stories. As the guests—the victim’s stepson, the chef and his girlfriend, a husband-and-wife lawyer team, a businessman, an opera diva and her assistant, a bartender and an elderly retainer—reveal their characters, they also form a picture of the autocratic, capricious but generous deceased. Two missing pocketbooks and a small golden egg, a squabble over Miss Shirley’s will and a revelation about her past foment more tension and panic, especially given the possibility that only the killer will get out alive.
Although Cait is a center of sanity and reason in her fourth outing, this contrived tale is trite in concept, slow in exposition and incomplete in resolution—unless Ace (The Corpse With the Emerald Thumb, 2014, etc.) is reserving a key piece of the mystery for the next installment.