Back to the Rat has a ripped-from-the-headlines feel: an athletic scandal is tarnishing UNC’s reputation and an NCAA investigation of it is itself a questionable endeavor; shadowy figures who may or may not work for the government drug and kidnap the hero; and locals who hope that a beloved Chapel Hill landmark may be resurrected. Palmer Morel, a forty-something tennis pro is in the midst of all this.
Palmer lives just south of Chapel Hill and as his tennis fortunes have waned, he’s picked up a dubious second career as a bag man for a local mobster, Chucky Minori. He needs the money, but he needs something more too. At the suggestion of a friend who notices his down mood, Palmer visits The Body Shop, a Carrboro dance therapy center. There Palmer encounters Pris Price, who he fantasizes could cure all his ills. Pris both rebuffs and bewitches him, drawing him into danger and an immense conspiracy.
Readers who know the Chapel Hill-Carrboro area will enjoy Mr. Rochelle’s use of local landmarks as the settings for many key scenes. And Palmer’s confidant and caper partner, the columnist “Barry Cinders”, will bring to mind a certain News & Observer columnist. But one need not be steeped in local lore to enjoy Back to the Rat.
Back to the Rat is fourteenth Palmer Morel thriller. Morel’s adventures have taken him across the United States, from Kansas City to Biloxi, to Chapel Hill and points in between.
Check this title’s availability in the UNC-Chapel Hill Library catalog.