The author is in an impish mood as he tackles--and sometimes dismantles--the group of actors, singers, directors, etc. gathered for the annual Ketterick Festival, centered in the venerable Saracen Inn, whose courtyard serves as stage and theater. The mood of returning participants is somewhat dampened by the nosy, intrusive presence of new hotel manager Des Capper, a poor substitute for deceased ""dear old Arthur,"" loved by all. Des spends much time giving unwanted advice and ferreting out scandal, while his harried wife Win works the bar. He quickly antagonizes young actors Gillian Soames and Peter Fortnum; the aging matinee idol team of Clarissa and Carston Galloway; dynamic, autocratic music conductor Gunther Gottlieb; and even wimpy Brad Mallory, agent for Indian countertenor Singh and Russian soprano Natalya Radilov. They all appear shocked, however, when Des is discovered stabbed to death in his hotel apartment and savvy Superintendent lain Dundy is presented with a host of suspects; a victim seemingly engaged in blackmail; a play in progress, and a timetable that seems to alibi everyone. Except that it doesn't, of course--and Dundy works his way through a replay of tedious minute-by-minute comings and goings to a not-very-surprising culprit, whose powerful motive is hidden to the end. There are many dull quotes from tire Jacobean comedy being performed and many false trails explored, some of them mildly intriguing. The gossipy, barbed, behind-the-scenes battles are the chief asset in a story that's a weak echo of the author's best (Fete Fatale, etc.).