She is, as the homicide detective points out, “very dead.” But she isn’t the starlet he thinks she is.
Thea Stockton’s name sounds a bit like Fay Stratton’s. And in the early stages of the investigation, Detective Charlie Reason can be forgiven his confusion. On the other hand, he goes right on leaping to conclusions. Peter Arvad, for instance, finds himself an instant suspect when, after a single look, Detective Reason decides he’s “a hot-blooded man.” As events prove, it’s blameless Thea, not hard-living Fay, on that slab in the morgue. But a wide variety of people have been passionately enough involved in Fay’s checkered existence to pique Detective Reason’s ever-avid interest. A pair of lubricious teenage twins, Hans and Manuel, have both sought preeminence in Fay’s busy romantic life. Peter Arvad, more melancholic than hot-blooded, has been Fay’s acting coach and quondam lover. Peter’s neglected wife Jane has a smoldering case of jealousy. And there are others just as highly motivated. So was Thea’s homicide a case of mistaken identity by a criminal as blinkered as the lead detective, or just another predictable murder of innocence in dissolute Evilwood, that place of “fake rocks,” “painted scenery” and “nasty creatures”?
Though Bulgarian-born Chernozemsky (Phase One After Zero, not reviewed, etc.) is the author of 47 novels in five different languages, what he offers here is indifferently plotted and clumsily written.