Bart Minnock is the founder and Wunderkind of the gaming company U-Play. Bart and his company, founded by him and three of his closest friends, are working on a new game known as Fantastical, where you can literally be anyone and do anything in the realms of an adventure game. Bart's favorite scenario is to play as a beleaguered King fighting to regain sovereignty in his Kingdom and the woman he loves, but this time, when he sneaks out a coy of the game to play around with at hom, something goes wrong, and the combat in the game actually wounds him. Before he can stop, the Black Knight in the game kills him, and in the morning he is discovered with his head cut off.
Of course, Eve Dallas, and her partner Delia Peabody, are called in on the case, and it's pretty much a locked room mystery- Bart was at home, alone, with only his shut down Droid for company. Yet, how did he die alone? There is no sign whatsoever of a break-in, or a cover-up of a break-in. And this is a case everyone wants in on, from Eve's husband, Roarke, who knew Bart Minnock, and rented him the building which the company now owns, and who liked Bart- to Peabody's lover and co-worker Ian McNab, who has an interest in all things tech and geek, and finds Bart's pad "Seriously frosty to the Ice".
Unable to find any sign of a break-in, Eve focusses her attention on the murder weapon, which had to be some sort of electrified sword- because electrical-type burns were found along the wound along with the blade wound. She sends McNab and Peabody to a gamer's convention to interview anyone who might make a sword like that or anyone who had one made- but they come up completely empty. Not only is there nothing like that on the market or made for collectors, nobody has even known an electrified sword to be made. It could be made, but no one has ordered one.
Meanwhile, Eve looks into the situation at U-Play. Bart had three partners, who were his closest friends. All handled different areas of the company- Bart was the Public "Face" of the company, but he also had a hand in R&D. In fact, they all did- hashing out ideas between themselves. Even Quickly zeroes in on one of the employees with a connection to the case, but he seems more like a patsy, sharing information with his lover after sex led to the (male) lover selling the information to a rival company. But both the lover and the employee have an alibi for the time of the murder, and the owner of the rival company might be someone willing to try and jump the market from the information he bought, but not murder someone. Eve busts him and the lover for corporate espionage, but as far as the murderer goes, she isn't having any luck.
Suspicion focuses on the other members of the company, specifically, Bart's three other friends, and the other co-owners of the company. But which of the other three, Cill, the PR lady, Benny, the Researcher, and Var, the main idea guy, is responsible for the murder of their friend? And when there is another near-death in the circle of three, can Eve discover not only the identity of the killer, but how they managed to kill not only one person alone in a room, but nearly kill a second as well? Because in the end, not only Eve's life might be on the line, but Roarke's as well...
I loved this book. This book let us get a look at the games of the future, and how they will not only work, but also what they will consider innovations, at least in the Eve Dallas universe. And that happens to be a holo game that not only looks real, but feels real, right down to your character's hair and clothing. But this crosses all the lines, that now someone is using games to kill- the only question is "How?"
Not only the Who, but the How dominates in this book. Eve has to discover how Bart Minnock was killed- it seems that no one was in his house or in the room with him, so how could his head get chopped off like that. But we get to see a lot of Roarke and Eve interacting, and he's just as keen to catch the killer as Eve is- because he liked Bart Minnock, and knew him, so he pretty much tables the rest of his business life to come and assist her with his expertise in computers and in crime- from the criminal's side of the street.
Of course, the book is almost as much romance as mystery, and Roarke and Eve's relationship is a major part of the book- and as always, it's delicious to read. Eve continues to grow more used to the "girly" parts of her life, like dressing up in fine clothes and jewels, but remains Eve at heart- terrified of getting her hair done and her face made up by Trina. I love these books, and they keep on being fantastically interesting and readable. Highly recommended from me.