KEY News goes to Newport, where the exclusive estates are just as thickly strewn with corpses.
The first victim was heiress Charlotte Wagstaff Sloane, who went missing from Shepherd’s Point 14 years ago, leaving behind a husband, a daughter, and an imperious sister. Just as the crew for Key to America is packing to move up to Newport for a week’s worth of broadcasts comes the news that a skeleton swathed in gold lamé has been found in a tunnel beneath the estate, a tunnel once used as part of the Underground Railroad. Wholesome new intern Grace Callahan, a single mother at 32, is struggling to keep up with her much younger competition—glamourpuss Jocelyn Vickers, Afro-British Zoe Quigley, and good old Okie Sam Watkins—for the coveted assistant producer’s job at the end of the rainbow. In the meantime, however, Charlotte’s killer, like a dormant volcano, flares once more to deadly life, killing Madeleine Sloane before she can reveal too much about her memories of the day her mother disappeared, and then going after the interns, each of whom seems to have popped up as a witness at exactly the wrong time. Although Grace is battling her ex for custody of her daughter Lucy, she enjoys at least one consolation: She’ll probably be the last intern standing, the one slated for the climactic showdown with the murderer. Clark shortens her chapters to a page or two in search of suspense, but the characters are slotted so early and so decisively into their ordained roles—Grace’s rivals, the local experts she consults, future victims, red herrings—that the whole effect is reassuring, even soothing.
The least distinctive of the KEY chronicles (Nowhere to Run, 2003, etc.) is also—surprise!—the one most indistinguishable from the franchise in upscale suburban menace patented by the author’s ex–mother-in-law, that other Mary Clark.