West Sussex private eye Lacey Jordan (Wave and Die, 2001, etc.) may have bitten off more than she can chew when she agrees to help Oliver Guilbert, general manager of Latching’s sole upscale department store, get the goods on Sonia Spiller, a customer who claims to have fallen in the basement, dislocating her shoulder. Twelve hours a day of surveillance leaves Lacey precious little time to accommodate last-minute Christmas shoppers at her own store, First Class Junk. Or to do a favor for the man of her dreams, delectable DI James, by finding out who ran a backhoe over the lawn of the Latching Bowls Club. Or to try to find out who robbed Miguel Cortes’s Mexican restaurant and Maeve’s Café. And Oliver’s turning up dead on the Hell’s Revenge ride on Latching’s amusement pier multiplies her commitments still further. Francis Guilbert, Oliver’s father, not only wants Lacey to work undercover in the store to track down shipments of soft goods that keep going astray, but asks her to keep him company during Christmas, which his son’s absence has made unbearably sad. Leaving Francis’s barely in time to fill in for a missing waitress at Miguel’s, she discovers that the middle-aged but appealing owner also craves her companionship. But her heart belongs to James—unless the married jazz trumpeter who’s been drifting through her life shows up—and Lacey won’t rest until she proves herself his equal at fighting crime.
The hectic pace and soap-opera complications give Whitelaw’s third a slapdash feel missing from Lacey’s crisp earlier work.