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by Jo Bannister

Pub Date: Aug. 16th, 1997
ISBN: 0-312-15565-4
Publisher: St. Martin's

 Bannister takes a break from her admirable Castlemere CID series (No Birds Sing, 1996, etc.) with a weekend in London's posh Lazaire's Hotel, where seven jittery guests have gathered for a Personal Discovery Course with a few glitches. The first is that the hotel isn't quite completed; only the sky-high penthouse level is habitable, and niceties like fire escapes and backup emergency power aren't yet available. The second is that the course is a trap for six people who failed to prevent tennis star Cathy Beacham's suicide last year: the coach who pushed her too hard, the lover who couldn't support her career, the agent who stood by while she went around the bend, the good Samaritan who didn't quite succeed in fishing her out of the Thames, and so on. And whoever has lured the survivors to this macabre wake and then sealed them off from any escape or rescue till Monday morning isn't just interested in their mea culpas, but in a considerably more tangible revenge: one group member battered with a rolling pin, another vanished down the elevator shaft, a third sidelined by a diabetic coma. The premise is nothing more than updated Agatha Christie, but the agitated, self-justifying cast is drawn with such sure strokes, their conflicts are so lacerating, and the revelations about Cathy Beacham's sad life and death so dexterously alternated with outbreaks of treacherous violence that even the most critical readers will be blissfully hooked. A superior pastiche--And Then There Were Nuts for the '90s- -more clever and nuanced than its famous original; the sort of tour de force that gives melodrama a good name.