Kellogg (Birthday Party, 1999, etc.) leaves the West (and her popular sleuth Lilly Bennett) behind this time, with a sly caper featuring the butler-detective Nigel Weatherby-Smythe.
Weatherby-Smythe’s hobby is hypochondria, and his cushy job gives him plenty of time to indulge in it—until the IRS comes looking for his current employer. Jacqueline de Fidelio, a famous portrait painter whose filthy-rich clients adore her for making them look so young, has never paid tax on her earnings. Th IRS, though, is willing to forgive the debt if she can get the goods on Armand Weil, an international art dealer who’s suspected of masterminding a big museum heist. So Jackie sets off, Nigel in her wake, to meet Armand and complete her latest commission: a portrait of the fabulously wealthy Lynette Hammond Payne, an heiress to the Hammond Oil fortune. Lynette becomes the first Hammond to perish when her gigantic yacht, the Kiss-Kiss, blows up seconds after Jackie and Nigel and Armand have left it. Then Bianca, another member of the raucous Texas clan, dies mysteriously. Junior Hammond, an obese, repulsive windbag, doesn’t even pretend that he cares. Nigel is aghast to find Junior attempting to woo Jackie and whisks her off to Armand’s elegant mountainside lair in Aspen. While he’s distracted by Jackie’s sultry beauty, Nigel manages to pick a few locks and discover a treasure trove of . . . worthless fakes? They press on to Nepal in search of Patty, the last female Hammond, who runs expeditions for well-heeled adventurers, and watch the yaks romp amidst the snowy peaks—while Patty falls down a crevasse. Nigel, devious as he is, can’t even begin to figure out who’s killing the Hammonds or why. Twists and turns abound, and the ingenious denouement is a shocker.
Fast-paced international suspense, combined with sly social satire: unprincipled fun, overall, served up with consummate skill.