“Heaven has no rage like love to hatred turned, Nor hell a fury like a woman scorned.” This immortal line—often misattributed to Shakespeare—comes from William Congreve’s play, The Mourning Bride. If only they’d had TV reality shows back in 1697, I think he would have pumped it up to include talons, conniving bitchery, backstabbing, and huge, silicone-enhanced chest spheres (“breasts” seem too human for these Monsantoesque monstrosities).
Season two of “Atomic Love” is filming in a posh, Marin County mansion, and twenty of the most scheming, plotting, ruthless women ever to strut in five-inch heels are trying to win. At stake? The studly former guitarist of The Nuclear Kings, Patrick Price. Also at stake, the chance to be on TV, to become a star, perhaps to launch a career, as well as landing a grunge legend. The atmosphere in the mansion is thick with malice, as the contestants try to…well, out-whore each other, quite honestly, in order to claim their famous prize.
And stuck in the middle of all this sheer hell is Clancy Parker, private investigator and part-time lead guitarist.
“Atomic Love” star Patrick has been getting threatening stalker letters, and Kevin, the show’s producer, is terrified one of these contestants will try and kill his main attraction. So Kevin hires Clancy to go undercover and keep a protective eye on things. Clancy figures that as gigs go, living in a mansion, playing dumb games, drinking, and hanging out with a fellow rock guitarist can’t be too bad.
Boy, was she mistaken.
Not only is Clancy ready to smite most of her fellow contestants herself after an hour, strange “accidents” start happening putting everyone at risk.
Then the producer turns up dead in the swimming pool.
Clancy has now lost the only person who knew she was on the case. Worse yet, there’s a murderer loose in the mansion, and Clancy STILL has to endure the she-demon star wannabes—sometimes, she’s not sure which prospect scares her more.
There are so many laugh-out-loud moments in “Exile on Slain Street,” that it pains me not to reveal them lest I spoil the plot. I was a big fan of P.J. Morse’s first Clancy Parker Mystery, Heavy Mental. That book introduced us to Clancy and her jolly nutball friends, and showed-off her sharp investigative chops. That groundwork laid, “Exile on Slain Street” picks up from there and sprints.
In a sense, “Exile” resembles a locked-room mystery—while the suspects aren’t always in the same room, they’re usually in the same house, and the cameras are always rolling. Looking at the various participants, the murderer could be any of the contestants or even a member of the production team.
P.J. Morse has a beautifully demented way with crackpot characters, a talent she utilizes wonderfully in “Exile on Slain Street.” Morse takes her creations, stirs in backstage Reality TV Show details, and locks them all in a very taut mystery.
With a spot-on mix of laughs and intrigue, plot-twists and lunatics, “Exile on Slain Street” stands as one of the most entertaining, addictive, and flat-out fun books to come out in a long damn time.
Rock on, Clancy Parker. I can’t wait for #3.
Most Highly Recommended