An insurance claims agent is drafted to play detective, first by her own company and later by the owner of a tony art gallery.
Lana Davis’ problems start when her boss, Charley, insists that she’s the ideal person to fly to Santa Fe to track down Antonio Chavez, cousin to First Century Life’s client Miguel Garcia and rival to Garcia’s claim on his great-aunt’s insurance policy. Lana has no idea how to conduct a missing person investigation, but she’s worn down by Charley’s insistence and encouraged by a wan hope of rekindling her relationship with her old flame Alan Finley in Santa Fe. Her first foray into detection isn’t promising: When she gets to Chavez’s address, she’s shot at by an old geezer, then shaken down for $500 in rent the geezer claims “Lefty” owes him. In the meantime, Angelica, Lana’s only other lead to Lefty’s whereabouts, is shot dead outside the hotel where she works. With these credentials, you have to wonder why, after meeting her briefly at a party, Carone Merryweather recruits Lana to find a Picasso that’s been pilfered from the stockroom at Merryweather Galleries. At any rate, Carone chics Lana up in some of her old designer dresses adroitly enough to allow Rodney Bracken, Clyde Posten, Marny Jenkins and the rest of the Merryweather staff to swallow her cover story that she’s a curator. Lana’s further efforts at detection, which consist mainly of getting locked into closets, stall on both fronts, until a lucky break helps her make a connection that cracks the case.
Although its denouement is more “way out” than some of the abstract canvases Carone handles, Lana’s debut is still good fun.