Ding-dong, the wicked actor Jack Nathanson is dead, and—as in the old Hollywood joke—virtually all of la-la land turns out for his funeral to make sure. Among the attendees is TV reporter Maxie Poole, who, as she studies her still-good-looking ex in his tasteless coffin, can’t muster anything resembling sorrow. Jack had that kind of negative effect on his other two wives as well: Italian beauty Debra Angelo, the mother of his child, and powerhouse talent agent Janet Orson, the current Mrs. Nathanson. But his enemies list transcends marital connections. Just about anyone who ever had any dealings with Jack might have put two bullets into him. Former child star Meg Davidson’s co-starring turn in the blockbuster movie Black Sabbat was darkened by Jack’s sexual abuse, an experience from which she never recovered. He treated Zahna Cole, his occasional mistress, so shabbily that hard drugs became her desperate refuge from pain and humiliation. At the funeral, however, it’s first wife Debra who’s arrested, though the sketchy evidence against her will raise skeptical eyebrows among mystery veterans. Other murders follow, along with a mistaken arrest and a tragic suicide. When Maxie herself becomes a suspect, she finds herself reporting her own story. It’s uncomfortable, sure, but not nearly as bad as what’s in store for her at the big, predictable Grand Guignol finish.
Los Angeles TV anchor Lange has tried fiction before (Gossip, 1998, etc.), but this is her first crack at plotting a mystery. It shows.