A Hollywood starlet who disappeared years ago resurfaces just in time to die, an apparent suicide nobody believes.
Carroll Quint (Jigsaw, 2007) is supposed to be the movie and drama critic for the San Francisco Bulletin, but he seems to spend all his time sleuthing. His boss, Katherine “the Great” Parkham, wants him to head off financier Sir Charles Talbot’s bid to purchase the Bulletin by proving that his son, Charles Jr., is winning his high-stakes poker games by cheating. His mother, a long-retired bit player, wants him to prove that Ulla Kjeldsen, an old roommate of hers who called suicide the sin of sins, didn’t kill herself aboard her houseboat. The first case peters out disappointingly, but the second seems to open up wide enough to include half the retirees in Tinseltown. Some of them, like Father James Carmody, can’t believe that Ulla, aka Vicky Vandamn, killed herself. Others, like retired Detective Willie Chanan, LAPD, can’t believe she didn’t die 30 years ago. Carroll himself can’t believe that he’s ever going to find a copy of Payback, the elusive tell-all memoir that obviously linked Ulla to the Talbots and led to her death—and the death of several others.
Carroll’s second features too many secrets, too many felonies, too many detectives working at cross-purposes, too many dead folks in the back story, and ultimately too many killers.