Two novellas that, though more subdued than Ingalls's last collection (The End of Tragedy, 1989), show her as adept as ever at mixing the sinister and the commonplace to create psychological suspense. In Sis and Bud, Alma and Bruce are enjoying an ordinary American childhood, secure in the love of their decent if fuddy- duddy parents, Elton and Bess. When the kids turn 14, the parents tell them that they're adopted. Bruce is horrified, and determined to make his biological parents pay for their betrayal; but Alma is pleased, feeling free to love her dear brother in a new way (Bruce will have none of it). Time goes by. Bruce leaves his home, somewhere in the East, and tracks his birth mother to Kentucky. There, mother Joanna has a prosperous marriage and two grown daughters who Bruce (having ingratiated himself with the family) decides are ``too shallow to be hurt''; Joanna is his target. A climax involving incest and murder also reveals that Joanna wanted to pay back her own parents for their victimization of her; like mother, like son. In the title story, working-girl Sandra is a different kind of victim—not the captive of her genes but of romantic illusion. About to dump her insensitive boyfriend Bert, she is fair game for the first man who'll show her attention; and Roy Martinson seems like the perfect stranger, even if he's rumored to have killed his first wife and is the father of the exceedingly creepy Eric, who cut open his pet hamster ``to see what was inside.'' Roy proposes on their second date, and Sandra accepts, sustained by blind faith; but will it save her from these two operators? What's lacking here is the wildly inventive quality of Ingalls's best work—but, still, this is solid entertainment.
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