Another grisly series of sex murders, this one kicked off by the killing of D.C. paralegal Victoria Benton. The killer is into bondage, torture, and horseshoes (an icon he lipsticks on the bathroom wall)—a good fit for John Carnes, the detective heading the investigation, since he's into addictive sexual relationships himself, despite the disapproval of his partner and his guilt over neglecting his daughter. As the case unfolds, first-novelist Stone reveals via a series of overwrought vignettes from the killer's viewpoint that the perp, like Carnes, has a background of sexual abuse and humiliation. Taking a break from his compulsive series of meaningless one-night stands (most of them described for the reproving reader), Carnes, who's convinced that the killer will strike again, reaches out for help to Sex Addicts Anonymous and the chaste embraces of Vicky's former sorority roommate Becky Granite; meanwhile, sure enough, his quarry, less lucky in love, dispatches two other victims (a third is discovered from a year back in Ocean City, trademark wounds, lipstick horseshoe and all) and is obviously closing in on Becky as Carnes races platonically to her side. The whole package is presented with an unfocused intensity that might pass for professionalism if not for the amateurish handling of the killer, who would need special lighting to stand out from the wallpaper.
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