Book 11 in the Angie Amalfi series, published November 2003.
Nothing could drag chef Angie Amalfi away from San Francisco and her beloved policeman fiancé Paavo Smith -- except for a job preparing the banquet her all-time favorite soap opera characters will consume during an upcoming Christmas Reunion Special. So Angie eagerly takes off for the estate where the now-defunct "Eagle Crest" was originally filmed. Not thrilled to be staying in the very room from which the young actress Brittany Keegan took a real-life fatal tumble years earlier, Angie is equally disturbed -- and intrigued -- when another corpse turns up in the cellar. Both deaths have been ruled accidental, but the bitter accusations flying back and forth among the reunited cast suggest otherwise. And now that Angie's a guest star in this deadly serial drama, she's suddenly in serious danger of being written out of it permanently.
Busy with the arrangements for her own engagement party, Angie jumps at the chance to create a Christmas dinner for the actors of the once very popular soap opera Eagle Crest. She loved that soap and the actors in it, can recite whole scenes from memory. So the chance to actually stay in the house where it all took place, and meet the idols from her youth is accepted with both hands!
The owner is an old friend of her parents, and he rented out his house for the series. Giving up his privacy as well. The house has its own vineyard, which is part of the plot. Unfortunately, the wine it produces is very bad, and now Angie will have to drink it as it is mandatory on the show.
Arriving at the mansion, it is all decked out in Christmas decorations, and fake snow is covering the grounds. A Christmas show in April sure makes her loose her sense of time. The house is practically deserted, and a surly woman shows Angie the way to her room, on the third floor. Her luggage hardly fits in there! The room is freezing too, and when she finds out that the room belonged to the actress who died by falling out of the window, Angie is not pleased at all with it, but there are no other rooms available.
And what is with the other cook in her kitchen? All meals except breakfast are catered, and she needs to speak with the director to discuss her Christmas dinner. Emerson doesn’t seem inclined to talk about that, always disappearing, the actors are sniping at each other, and the continues Christmas music is driving Angie nuts. And then all the people who come to visit her, only hoping to catch a glimp of the stars. And when told they are not here yet, only the people needed to set everything up, they disappear as soon as possible, while leaving something personal in view of the camera’s. Even Rebecca shows up, and she really dislikes Angie. It seems the soap was more popular, and still holds dear memories for a lot of people her age. Only her mother comes to stay, and why is she so cozy with Sterling? Letting him take her out, so she hardly sees her mother?
In the meanwhile, Paavo gets a case of a missing little person, referred to him by Angies best friend Conny. He really doesn’t have time for this, as Los Angeles is in the midst of a drug war. A lot of casualties, and the police will have to intervene to put a stop to that, as more innocent bystanders get killed in the process. But he misses Angie more than he thought possible, and wished she would come back home to him.
A reporter is dogging Angie’s steps. He wants to find out what happened in truth to the death actress. Her death was ruled an accident, but he doesn’t believe it, and neither does Angie. And when she finds the other cook death in the wine cellar, she really starts snooping around. She is not the only one who wants to find out what really happened, this whole reunion thing is a plot to bring the main characters back together, and spook some one in finally confessing the truth. Is it the person trying to sabotage the show?
It was a bit difficult to get into this story, though I did like the concept. There were just so many weird characters in the book. Everyone could be the killer, everyone seemed to have a motive. Jealousy most often, but who can tell with actors.
A nice conversation between Angie and Serafina (her mother), and why her father put her up for this. He still doesn’t approve of Paavo, and Angie just wants them to like each other. Serafina explains how it works for Sal, seeing his youngest daughter, his special child, getting married. No one would have been good enough in his eyes. Not much progress on the personal timeline yet. Paavo just wants to elope with her, but Angelina wants as big a party as possible.