Who's going to strangle blowsy Mississippi flower Barbie Stringfellow on Easter weekend and leave her body, shorn of a superfluous pinky and negligeed in yards of purple satin, in the cabin she's rented in central California's exclusive Mariah Lodge? Flashback to the beginning of the year, when the long countdown to Barbie's death begins with the cheerful Barbie turning up on investment counselor Iris Thorne's L.A. doorstep with $50,000 to invest and the promise of much, much more. Before you know it, Barbie is smothering Iris with phone calls, gifts, and affection when Iris really needs them--her sometime lover, John Somers (LAPD), has dumped her for his ex-wife and daughter--and has let Iris's hungry colleague, Art Silva, talk her into helping him bankroll the Latin nightclub of his dreams. Even before she starts coming on sexually to both Art and Iris, Barbie sounds too good to be true, and of course she is: She's after the half-million dollars in hot money Iris stashed at the end of her first brush with sudden death (Cold Call, 1993). So far, so nasty, and it's great fun watching Pugh put Barbie through her vulgar, good-hearted parvenu routine as Iris is slowly tumbling to Barbie's designs on her. Once Barbie starts cooling in that satin, though, the life goes out of the book as well (Barbie quick is more fun than Barbie dead)--enjoy her con while you can. So brightly written and fleetly paced that you barely notice how gossamer thin the plot is.