Murder impinges–but barely–on a frivolous dinner party in this satirical drawing-room mystery.
After her father and ex-husband die and leave her nothing but nine-acre island estate Stone’s Throw, middle-aged Boston socialite Marla Stone finds herself in straitened circumstances. She earns a little money teaching hobby classes on gold-leafing and bird-song, but with the expenses of exotic Chinese teas, drumming therapy, $80 per ounce moisturizer and her Versace-addicted Salvadoran maid, Marla is living in what she imagines is poverty. Marla’s financial salvation arrives in the form of Jack Trumpet, CEO of Conglomotron, who appears on her doorstep clad only in a raincoat and Speedo to ask her to co-host a cable-television lifestyle show with his wife Barbie Lee. Barbie Lee turns out to be the personification of gaucheness but becomes an even bigger problem when she’s discovered dead, facedown in a poisoned bowl of gazpacho at Marla’s dinner party. â€œPeople didn’t go around murdering people,” the appalled hostess thinks, â€œespecially in the middle of what was going to be a lovely meal.” The farcical whodunit is a perfunctory afterthought to Baseman’s lightweight but engaging comedy of manners, which comes complete with Marla’s favorite recipes. Blind to her own tics, the heroine casts a jaundiced eye on the exasperating foibles of her shallow, dotty, tragically overfunded cohort Trumpet. Marla’s is a funny perspective on lives precariously balanced between refinement and snobbery, hysteria and aplomb.
A winning bit of piffle.