Child psychologist Dr. Alex Delaware (Breakdown, 2016, etc.) deals with his oldest client yet, a deceptively sweet old lady who gently importunes him to provide his services but dies without explaining why.
About to celebrate your own centennial? Better not call the genre’s most celebrated psychologist. Like Thalia Mars, a CPA who retired from the Los Angeles Assessor’s Office before you were born, you may not live to keep your second appointment with him. When an observant paramedic sees signs that Thalia, against all odds, was helped into the great beyond, Alex resolves to avenge his client. The job is made more difficult by the fact that in their one meeting at her digs at the Aventura Hotel, where everyone swears that they loved her to pieces, Thalia asked about guilt only in the most general terms, and she seems to have long outlived everyone and everything that could possibly have made her feel guilty. Attaching himself to his always-accommodating buddy Lt. Milo Sturgis, LAPD, Alex questions Thalia’s broker, Joe Manucci; her driver, Leon Creech; and the Aventura staff, not all of whom will survive their first interview either. When the trail seems to vanish into the distant past, he enlists UCLA history professor Maxine Driver and the extensive public records available on the Aventura and Thalia’s long-dead lover, bootlegger Leroy Hoke, to nose out further suspects and complications until he’s able to connect Thalia’s present-day nemesis with her storied past.
Entertaining as the conscientious excavation of ancient misdeeds is, it all ends up having disappointingly little to do with the motive and the culprit in the unlikely murder of the tale’s most charming character.