With Mermaids in the Basement, Michael Lee West explores the complex bonds between a father and daughter. Twenty pounds overweight-and sporting a bad haircut-Renata DeChavannes' luck has run out. Her screenwriting career is on the skids, she's reeling from her mother's sudden death, and her producer-boyfriend is on the cover of tabloid magazines (accompanied by a big-breasted starlet). For decades, Renata has been estranged from her father, but she retreats to her beloved paternal grandmother's home in Point Clear, Alabama, where an old steamer trunk holds clues to her troubled childhood-and to her parents' failed marriage. She hopes to reconcile with her womanizing, heart-surgeon father, until his latest fiancée turns up bloodied and comatose at her engagement party-and pearls from Renata's broken necklace are rolling around the crime scene. While the police snoop and her father dodges her phone calls, Renata continues to excavate the old trunk; and she discovers that everything she thought she knew about her parents-and herself-is a lie. And all of it uncannily resembles a tabloid story.