Nadia Wentworth, the latest queen of the silver screen, sits in a cheesy South Pacific hotel room waiting for the rain to let up so she can continue shooting. It has been a week and a half since the sun last shone, and cast and crew are busy inventing new ways to get on one another's nerves. The misnamed Hotel Splendide provides no diversions save for a VCR with the tracking terminally out of alignment and a collection of books last updated in Somerset Maugham's day. She cast a sullen eye over the collection of books, and was drawn immediately to the cover of The Wrath of Kali-Ra by Valerian Ricardo. It depicted a tall, pale, exotic-looking woman with a cloud of black hair. . . . The woman had a haughty and cruel expression on her face, and carried a whip. God, said Nadia reverently, She looks so totally empowered. Nadia realizes that she has stumbled on the role of a career. She was born to play Kali-Ra, and nothing must stand in her way. She dispatches her trusty personal assistant to research copyright ownership issues. It turns out that dissolute 1920s fictioneer Valerian Ricardo wrote a whole series of books on the earthbound goddess Kali-Ra, and better yet, he left no heirs.

Or did he? From the moment it becomes public knowledge that Nadia Wentworth will be the next Kali-Ra, heirs (and worse!) come crawling out of the woodwork. In the grand manner of a 1930s thriller, one will wind up stabbed, and everyone else will be scrambling for alibis. But, as in musical chairs, someone is going to come up short.

Seattle-based K.

K. Beck is the author of the popular Jane da Silva mysteries, a series chronicling the misadventures of an amateur sleuth. With good humor and a terrific sense of caricature, she skewers the pretentious Hollywood types, gangsters, gold-diggers, and the various sycophantic hangers-on who surround any movie deal (or prospect thereof).

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