Flamboyant, wealthy, middle aged and several-times married Dodie Fanshaw is in Madeira to help make a film about her early life as a chorus girl and Hollywood starlet, and her husbands. She is not amused when her son Jake, indifferent actor, appeals to her for money. Instead of going back to England he remains in Madeira, and contrives to alienate Dodie's friends, a rival actor, the Madeiran family who run the hotel where he had been staying, and a wealthy, elderly woman with whom he is now living.
The situation becomes intolerable when Jake, drunk and abusive, comes uninvited to a party on a yacht on New Year's Eve, arranged to watch the annual Funchal firework spectacle. When his body is discovered next day in the harbour, Dodie asks was he killed or was it an accident? She is determined to discover which of the many enemies he has made could have killed him, but most of them had the opportunity.