Agoraphobic chess champion, Arkady Balagan, is on the verge of eviction from the luxury hotel he calls home when the hotel's bartender, Danni, enlists his help to find a missing boy. One of the boy's distraught fathers is willing to pay for Balagan's insights. Unable to leave the hotel, Balagan seeks the help of his number-one fan, grad-student and amateur chess player, Sam, and his savvy chambermaid, Alcina, to help him solve the mystery. Was the boy taken by one of his feuding fathers or was there a more sinister motive for the abduction? He is working against the clock to find the missing boy and collect his payment before he is forced out of the hotel. Meanwhile, Pippa, the sister of Balagan's murdered fiancée, Rosemary, attempts to draw him into investigating her murder. Still grieving, Balagan finds it too painful to pursue.
When Balagan learns that the hotel's head of security, Hugo Lum, was robbed at gunpoint during his secret high-stakes poker game, he sees an opportunity to earn a finder's fee. Wary of the crafty Russian, Hugo agrees to Balagan's terms but that means putting up with the chess master's arrogance. Balagan deduces the robber was a former hotel employee and follows his trail to the money, but was he working alone, or did the thief have a partner? With all the poker players accusing each other, Balagan uses their greed against them to get the money into the hands of a more deserving party. Balagan divides his attention between the robbery and new evidence in Rosemary's murder case that suggests he might have been the intended target in the shooting.
3The Caffeine Hit
A well dressed albeit shoeless man stumbles into the hotel. He has amnesia, with only the hotel's bar bill from the previous evening and the thought that he has a wife who he loves as knowns. He is looking specifically for his wife. Overhearing the situation, Arkady offers to help him find his wife for a fee, Arkady knowing that the man is wealthy based on the quality of his suit. They all quickly learn from Danni that he is Casey Roman, a well known local coffee importer, and that indeed he and a woman, who they assume is his wife Beatrice, had a very public argument in the bar the previous evening. As Arkady finds out more and more about Casey, he finds that he was not a nice man, either personally or professionally, none of which Casey remembers. The facts lead Arkady to believe that Casey's wife, Beatrice, is dead, probably killed by Casey, about which Casey seems truly sorrowful. But an overpayment at Casey's business may provide Arkady with some idea of what may have happened to Beatrice, or what will happen to Beatrice shortly. Meanwhile, Arkady, on Pippa's urging, agrees to meet with Det. Jason Evans, the lead investigator in Rosemary's death. The meeting hits some hurdles based on others invited to the meeting.
4The Other Side of Summer
Walt Varga, a friend of Hugo's on the police force, is days away from retirement. But Hugo knows he is still preoccupied with a twenty year old cold case of a missing girl named Kim Sharland. Walt is certain that a man named Steven Abramyk - who has since changed his name to Steven MacDonald - abducted her, the two who were dating at the time of her disappearance. Circumstantial evidence does point to Steven having killed Kim after a riverside party where Kim apparently stormed off after an argument with the volatile Steven. Steven's shirt, stained with Kim's blood, was later found at that site. As such, Walt has hounded Steven for the past twenty years. Hugo is afraid that Walt will take the law into his own hands after he retires, and asks Arkady to help him and Walt solve the case. Arkady agrees, with the terms of his hefty "fee" to be disclosed later. When Arkady interviews those who have a stake in the case, most believe Steven did kill Kim, including Steven's daughter Maisie MacDonald. But Steven professes his innocence. If Arkady can find out where Kim stormed off to after the party, he may be able to find out exactly what happened. Meanwhile, Det. Evans has some new information regarding Rosemary's murder.
5I Killed Her
The dead body of Lydia Beckett, a guest at the hotel, is found in the hotel's pool. Paul Wong, a businessman also staying at the hotel, is charged with her murder as the two were seen in a romantic liaison the evening before. Despite admitting that he picked her up in the bar and that their spur of the moment liaison ended badly, he denies murdering her. Her murder coincides with a convention of psychiatrists at the hotel. One of those psychiatrists, Dr. Abel Gray, confesses to Arkady that he is Lydia's killer. Dr. Gray's story seems to ring true, with many of its elements easily provable: that he was Lydia's doctor, that he was having an affair with her, and that the body in the pool was connected to his specialty in hydrophobia from which she suffered. Arkady has to figure out if Dr. Gray is admitting to the murder solely to get access to him to do what many of the convention's psychiatrists seem to want to do, which is to become famous by curing the famous chess master of his agoraphobia. But the psychological gamesmanship played by Dr. Gray seems to factor into the puzzle, which ultimately includes both Rosemary and Pippa.
When an innocent family's car explodes in front of their east side house, the parents seek Balagan's help to find out why they were targeted. Balagan identifies with their son, Colin, a teen too afraid to leave his house since the bombing. With Danni, Sam, and Alcina's help, Balagan discovers the family is keeping a few secrets. But Balagan is distracted by the arrival of reigning world chess champion, 16 year old, Jonas Etkin. And while Balagan plays an off the record match with Jonas, a second car bomb explodes at the same address on the west side of town. Balagan must use chess strategy to find the connection between the two addresses and stop the bombers before someone gets killed. Meanwhile, Pippa struggles with what she learns from Rosemary's autopsy report.
7Gorillas in our Midst
An Internet security conference is being held at the hotel. Someone, probably one of the conventioneers, has hacked into the hotel's computer system, wreaking havoc in many areas of the hotel, including security. This issue has caused some problem for Arkady to conduct his latest case effectively. Chinese national Jia Jyang, one of the convention's keynote speakers, and reporter Sophie McGray approach Arkady to help find Jia's suitcase which was purposely switched with someone else's probably on the hotel property without their knowledge. Jia, a cryptologist working for Jade Dragon, a Chinese state company, had in her suitcase sensitive information regarding a worm developed by her company, which she was going to turn over to Sophie in a whistle blowing exclusive. This act by Jia could get her killed for treason. Jia was also supposed to attend the conference alone, but at the last minute her company also sent a colleague, Kang Ming, who could factor into Jia's lack of safety. Arkady tries to wade through the myriad of red herrings obviously thrown into the commotion in the hotel lobby when Jia checked in and when the switch was probably made. But an unaccounted for side issue may make Arkady's task more difficult. Also making things more difficult are Arkady trying to determine if either Jia or Sophie are hiding any information, and Sam's attraction to and subsequent relationship with Jia.
8The White Queen
The hotel staff is operating under a code "Starfruit". What does that mean? It means the imminent and in this case unexpected arrival to the hotel of its powerful dragon-lady of an owner Vivian Huxley - who owns the worldwide chain of Huxley Hotels and who the staff refer to as the White Queen because of her penchant for all things white - with her entourage, which includes her husband, Robert Spiro. The reason for their visit is to confer with crime-solver Arkady about the supposed disappearance of their twenty-four year old son Christopher Huxley, who they call Kitch. Kitch, who grew up living in the hotels, currently resides in the Huxley Palo Alto while he attends graduate school at Stanford. However, he has not been heard from in three days, significant in Vivian's mind since they were all supposed to descend on the Palo Alto property for her landmark fiftieth birthday. The party has now moved to the Vancouver property so that Vivian can have her meeting with Arkady, he so chosen not only for his strategic mind but because Kitch's car was found abandoned in Vancouver. Kitch has no known associates in Vancouver and his New York based girlfriend, Deirdre Knebworth-Hall, has not seen or heard from him either and who doesn't seem to know much about his life, period. As Arkady reluctantly but eventually investigates - his stay at the Huxley dependent upon his success - he finds some secrets kept by Vivian and those within Vivian's entourage - including Ron, Vivian's personal assistant April (a native Vancouverite for who this trip is somewhat of a homecoming), and Vivian's bodyguard Bern Shenck - that indirectly led unknowingly to Kitch's disappearance. Meanwhile, Pippa manages to speak to Rosemary's confessed killer, and Alcina makes a confession about the day of Rosemary's murder.
9Huxley, We Have a Problem
When Balagan's oldest friend, the larger than life Russian cosmonaut Oleg Olesky, comes to the Huxley, he brings more than the party. About to pilot the first private space tourism rocket ship, Oleg is there with Chase Galactic as they announce their maiden launch. When the head engineer, Randall, falls from the roof of the hotel, Oleg is the prime suspect. With his only alibi being the fact he was with his boss's wife, which she denies, Oleg pleads for Balagan's help. Balagan eventually figures out the true motive for Randall's murder - and the real murderer.
10Bless This Union
As a negotiation ploy, the Huxley locks its workers out. But the plan goes awry when the hotel vault is robbed. Balagan loses Rosemary's engagement ring and a lavish Indian wedding celebration is ruined. Discovering the video surveillance in the hotel had been tampered with, allowing the thieves a 15-minute window to get in and out, Hugo is convinced it was a team of professionals. Balagan systematically eliminates suspects while gaining clues as to the true thief's identity. The resulting conclusion seems impossible - until Balagan figures out the final piece of the puzzle.
At 200 Euros a game, Arkady offers the public the ability to buy video on-line chess matches against him. Someone calling himself Mr. Black purchases five consecutive matches. Arkady thinks nothing of it until Mr. Black outlines the terms of the matches: Arkady will have a five minute maximum play time for each match, there will be a five minute break between matches, and for every match that Arkady loses, draws or goes over the time limit, Mr. Black will kill one of the five hostages he has captured. Seeing the five people on the video monitor with hoods over their heads in the background, Arkady knows that Mr. Black is serious. What places Arkady in an even more difficult position is that Mr. Black is probably using chess playing software, some on the market now which uses smart technology in that it learns something about its opponent with every move. Mr. Black places no ransom demands or even stipulations about calling in the police, which Arkady does. The ERT arrive, led by Regina Velasco, a by the books officer and an old nemesis of Hugo's who seems more concerned about procedure and covering her butt than the lives of those she is supposed to protect. As both Arkady and the ERT try to discover who Mr. Black really is, who his hostages are and where they are located, Arkady and Regina often seem to be working at cross purposes. As they begin to work symbiotically and as they discover Mr. Black's true identity and who his hostages probably are, Arkady has to figure out why the last hostage, the one seemingly least important to Mr. Black, was left until the last game. Sam ends up playing a more important role in this procedure than either he or Arkady would have liked. Meanwhile, Pippa gets some unexpected assistance in finding a connection between the companies associated with Rosemary's murder.
The heavy metal rock band Demon Spawn, lorded over by its front man Deacon, and its large entourage of noisy, party-loving roadies and groupies has bought out the entire floor on which Arkady's suite is located, minus Arkady's suite. Arkady doesn't much like them, the noise being the biggest issue. But Deacon asks for Arkady's paid help when one of his roadies, Troy, is beaten and robbed of $200,000 when Troy was on his way to conduct a business transaction with a fellow named Ray. Deacon, who didn't even get his unmentioned merchandise, wants his money back. Deacon and Troy are certain that the missing Ray stole the money. With Sam's help, Arkady's quest to find Ray, the missing money and ultimately discover what Deacon wanted to buy with it takes him through a maze to some surprising and unexpected end points including what Deacon was planning to do with his rather large purchase. Meanwhile, Danni is tricked into a meeting with her estranged deadbeat husband, who is in debt up to his eyeballs, partly to the tune of $50,000 to Danni. In the process, Danni exposes a little of her past life. And Arkady and Pippa have a blow-up over what next to do in finding Rosemary's killer.
The staff at the hotel are on edge when Barbara starts her forensic audit to uncover the whereabouts of at least $100,000 in missing money (that's what she knows of in one quarter) from the hotel, which could cost her her job if she doesn't find it. The focus of that staff anxiety changes when shortly thereafter, Gurjit, Hugo's second in charge in security, is found dead close to the hotel. Although initially ruled an accidental death, it soon becomes evident he was murdered. It also becomes evident that although Gurjit was born and raised in Vancouver, the hotel was like his family, as his own blood relatives no longer live in the area, Hugo considered him like a son, he was engaged to Lucinda, one of the masseuses in the hotel spa, and he was roommates with Tom Mody, the hotel buyer. But an incident witnessed by Alcina prior to Gurjit's murder, Tom's overt behavior toward Lucinda and the description of Gurjit by those closest to him make Arkady believe what one saw of Gurjit on the surface was not the entire picture of his life, and that he may have been involved in the hotel money going missing. Pippa ponders if Gurjit's murder is connected to Rosemary's, which Arkady believes absurd. But separate incidents involving Pippa and Arkady, the latter which is his worst nightmare, may prove that Pippa's theory has some validity. This case also becomes dangerous for Sam for another reason.