Elspeth Duff, chic, savvy, Cambridge-educated, is called in to untangle the truth of a terrorist threat at the posh Kennington Valletta hotel in Malta. Lord Kennington, owner of the elegant and expensive boutique Kennington hotel chain, charges Elspeth, as his chief security advisor, with keeping order in the Valletta hotel while she ferrets out the truth. She negotiates through a maze of colourful characters, a pompous Irish best-selling author, the stiff British high commissioner to Malta, a rich but suspicious young Arab with a British passport, an undercover Interpol agent sent to the hotel on a mission, a once-handsome Scotland Yard inspector with part his face and an arm blown off, an exacting Maltese policeman, and an internationally famous concert pianist.
Against a background of the luxuries of hotel and the beauty of the islands of Malta and Gozo, Elspeth has to cope with the murder of a guest who also was a friend and with her reconnection with a childhood friend with romantic feelings toward her. Elspeth prides herself on her independence, intelligence and coolness in crises, but she is forced to admit she has unwanted feelings of grief when her friend dies and physical attraction to a man she does not want to love. Despite all her efforts, one of the guests is found murdered in the hotel garden. Elspeth knows a link must exist between his death and the would-be terrorist. Elspeth sets up a dinner in the rooftop restaurant of the hotel with all the suspects present and begins to spin her web. Only after a miscalculation by the murderer does Elspeth to see that the murderer and the terrorist are one in the same—and not the person she had suspected all along.