(NB: I received a review copy of this novel from the publisher)
Life isn't bad for Clancy Parker. It's a warm October afternoon in San Francisco. She's sitting outside her home/office with her landlord, Harold. They're sipping bottles of Heineken, just enjoying the day.
That's when Sabrina Norton Buckner saunters into Clancy's life. Clancy is a detective, first and foremost. She also plays lead guitar in The Marquee Idols--a local, down-on-their-luck rock band--but private investigation is how she pays her rent.
When Clancy sees the obviously wealthy, high-class Mrs Buckner mince up the sidewalk, she senses immediately that it's a lucrative society divorce case.
Her senses were mistaken.
Sabrina Norton Buckner, it seems, has lost a necklace, and she wants Clancy to find it for her. Far from being a typical piece of jewelry, this necklace is a one-of-a-kind diamond confection worth a cool $2 million. That strikes Clancy as odd--how do you just lose a $2 million necklace, with no idea where you last had it?
It gets worse: she needs the necklace, because she was planning to give it to her psychiatrist, who'd sell it, give her half the cash, then use the other half to fund his charitable work.
Only because her socialite mother referred Mrs Buckner, Clancy takes the case.
Her suspicions about the psychiatrist are further compounded shortly after, when Sabrina Norton Buckner's husband also hires Clancy, in this case, just to keep an eye on Sabrina. Mr Buckner talks about how strange Sabrina has grown, very scatterbrained and dotty, and how he's worried her crackpot psychiatrist is making her even loopier.
To make matters even worse, The Marquee Idols lost their bass player, Larry, who also happened to be Clancy's boyfriend at the time. (Well, this doesn't actually complicate the case at all, but it is a nagging thorn in Clancy's side)
Clancy does a lot of juggling, trying to find the necklace, keep Sabrina safe, keep herself and Harold from being flattened by a stolen ice cream truck, hire a new bass player, escape from being kidnapped by two complete idiots, avoid getting shot, save a San Francisco Giants slugger, and manage to salvage The Marquee Idols' forthcoming club date.
That's a lot of work for a former little rich girl. Indeed, Clancy grew up wealthy--her father owns a Northeastern grocery chain, and her mother is a San Francisco socialite--but she likes her life, making her way investigating cases and playing rock guitar. Loud.
P.J. Morse's "Heavy Mental: A Clancy Parker Mystery" starts off this series in beautiful form. In addition to creating a formidable protagonist in Clancy, Ms Morse has introduced a wonderful array of supporting characters, any of whom could be fitted into a larger role as future novels require.
In this fiction sub-genre, the "ideal" would be an even balance between humor and mystery. Because of the additional material dealing with The Marquee Idols, "Heavy Mental" leans a bit more toward the humor side of the scale. That's not to say that there isn't a taut, well-drawn mystery here--there is.
Summer isn't too far away, and "Heavy Mental" would be an awesome choice for beach or poolside reading. Fortunately--depending on where you live--it would work equally well fireside, during commercial breaks in hockey telecasts, or in a rock club, between sets of your favorite hardworking, down-on-their-luck band.
All in all, this was a fun, fast, satisfying read, and a promising series debut.