by Bruce TierneyMarch, 1999
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.
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).