The fifteenth entry in the Donald Lam/Bertha Cool series begins in the firm's offices in L.A., but quickly moves to a cruise ship and, ultimately, to the Hawaiian Islands. A client whom Bertha described as a "fragile little pipsqueak," appears in the office. Lam guesses the man to be about forty-five, but he appears very infirm. He also appears to be loaded with dough, however, and in Bertha's mind, that's all that counts.
The man, whose name is Bicknell, is concerned about a young woman names Miriam Woodford. Miriam, or Mira, was formerly married to Bicknell's partner Ezra Woodford. Woodford was sixty-nine, and Mira, who's an absolute knockout, was twenty-seven. Ezra was able to enjoy six months of wedded bliss before he died suddenly, leaving a fortune to his young widow.
Bicknell, who seems unduly solicitous of the widow, believes that she may be being blackmailed. Mira is about to sail for Hawaii, and Bicknell wants Bertha to sail on the ship with her and protect her. Bertha is dead-set against the idea and wants Donald to go instead. Bicknell insists that he wants a woman on the job and in the end, both Donald and Bertha make the trip.
Inevitably, of course, one thing leads to several others. Donald manages to work his way into Mira's circle while on board the ship and will maintain the relationship once in the islands. Before long, someone will be dead and Donald and Bertha will be in the soup up to their necks. As always, it will take some pretty clever thinking and some very fancy footwork on Donald's part it they're going to get out of the mess.
Whenever I read a book in a series like this where the protagonist suddenly leaves his or her familiar surroundings and goes off to someplace exotic, I assume that the author is looking for a way to write off a great vacation as a research expense. Whatever the case, this is a very entertaining novel and it's fun to see Cool and Lam out of their element. A good, quick read.