Todd Love continues raising the stakes with the third installment of the Platinum Blondes series. Love Removal Machine picks up where INXS left off, treating readers to deliciously deserved punishment and violence enacted against Troy. But something more is going on, faint glimpses of unnatural activity from the chair upon which Troy is bound are blurred with the frantic vengeance unleashed by the women of the Platinum Blondes Agency. Dark secrets have been kept from most of the women Gwen’s recruited, sinister mysteries that originate in her youth and the hubris of her father. Todd drags us through this sordid history, unveiling surprise after shocking surprise along the way, hitting the reader over and over again with the brutal pacing of a professional fighter. In the world of the Platinum Blondes, no one and nothing is as it seems. Todd Love adds new questions as quickly as he answers the ones we already had, but there’s no need to worry…the story isn’t over yet.
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INXS picks up right where the first Platinum Blondes concluded, though we’re first introduced to Tony and provided with awful glimpses into a childhood from which no one would walk away undamaged. As much sympathy as we might have for the young boy, he quickly erodes that goodwill as we get to know him further, and especially the man he’s become. It similarly doesn’t take long to discover that Tony is no stranger to Tina, the protagonist we became achingly familiar with during the first installment. The tangled web of connections and intrigue doesn’t end there, and the reader’s exposed to new revelations that paint everything we’ve read before in a different light. Previous sentiments have to be adjusted as new facts become available and more details become clear. We also learn more about Gwen and Patricia Tobin, the Platinum Blondes orchestrating everything and manipulating the protagonists to achieve their sinister goals. Unfortunately, the more we learn about the two women operating The Platinum Blondes Agency, the more questionable everything becomes, including their judgment. Todd Love answers questions we had from the first story in this series while providing us with all new questions to be answered in future installments. He leaves us wanting for more but satisfied for the time being. Violence batters the reader from almost every page, and the story is positively soaked with blood, semen, and other fluids. Monsters elicit sympathy as we witness their development, and those who initially seemed like victims begin to appear more like monsters themselves. In all of this, Love reminds us to leave our preconceptions at the door when we enter The Platinum Blonde Agency.
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Tina lost everything in one careless, stupid action of a drunk driver. Her husband, her two children, and their chocolate lab all lost their lives in a spectacularly awful fashion. As if she didn’t have enough indignity to suffer through with all of that, she also has a fat, leering pastor to deal with when setting up the funeral arrangements. When the stranger with platinum blonde hair approaches Tina at the funeral, offering closure and peace, she takes the nondescript business card and forgets about it for a little while. Closure, in the world of Todd Love’s Platinum Blondes, has a way of hammering its way into one’s imagination and searing itself in the reader’s memory. Love dedicates a significant portion of this narrative to the cruel task of ripping the reader’s heart out and stomping on it as if it were an offending cockroach scurrying across his kitchen floor. He also spends a fair amount of time shoring up our disgust for the drunk driver who stole everything from Tina with his carelessness and disgusting behavior. Then, when we think he’s done screwing with us, Todd Love delivers a twist that Holmes wouldn’t have seen coming. This first installment of Love’s Platinum Blondes series of shorts is at turns gripping, heart-wrenching, perversely satisfying, and shocking. Platinum Blondes is a short story the reader wishes to continue reading beyond the final sentence, and thankfully there’s more.
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