The frantic fun-and-games atmosphere of New York's annual Toy Fair is the ironic setting for this tale of murder and industrial intrigue. Hilary Quayle is an attractive, young public relations consultant who has long harbored the desire to be a detective. It is with little urging, therefore, that she becomes involved in trying to ferret out the industrial spy who is ruining one of her best clients, Trim Tram Toys.
On the opening morning of the Toy Fair, the design for a new toy is stolen, and the preliminary investigation leads to the discovery of the body of the prime suspect. The solution to both crimes lies in interpreting the meaning of the Scrabble tiles found in the dead man's hand. Thoroughly intrigued, Hilary resolves to solve the crime and present the police with a brilliant fait accompli. She is aided by her secretary, a man as resourceful as she. The two have only a few hours in which to unravel the increasingly complex set of clues before the police must be called.
The plot twists and turns, first implicating one employee, then another. At one point all signs point to Hilary herself. The elimination of two more suspects, a blackmail plot, and a newly merry widow combine to further complicate matters and make A Lively Game of Death a challenging puzzle for all games players.