When her elderly fan, Ada Case Caffrey, writes that she is visiting New York and wishes to consult her about a historic manuscript she has discovered, Regency romance writer and amateur sleuth Juliet Bodine (Corpse de Ballet, 2001) invites her to tea. The young daughter of a friend has found the manuscript hidden in a secret compartment in the giant antique bed where Ada sleeps in her upstate home. In the throes of writer’s block—her hero is too chaste for a romance novel—Juliet is delighted to have a little harmless distraction. But Ada, it turns out, is not so harmless. A histrionic, selfish, passionate, and eccentric woman dressed in pre-WWII elegance, Ada effortlessly embroils Juliet in her life. Juliet finds Ada a room in a bed-and-breakfast, accompanies her to a poetry slam, which Ada wins by reading her own distinctly erotic poem, and introduces her to Dennis Daignault, an antiques dealer specializing in historic documents. Dennis thinks the manuscript is an authentic fragment of a memoir written by a notorious prostitute in Regency England. The fragment concerns an aristocrat whose descendants are British and therefore readily embarrassed. Before Dennis can find a buyer, however, Ada’s dead body is found in a Manhattan garbage bag, and the manuscript has disappeared. Soon Juliet finds that the 84-year-old had stirred up quite a number of murderous feelings in her lifetime.
A well-plotted, witty cozy without pretensions that nonetheless features a set of unusually complex characters.