Davis (Noise Abatement, 2001, etc.) unveils her scariest hero yet: a steroid-addicted psychopath who’s not only nasty but who inspires nastiness all around him.
The night that Nick, body-builder and drifter, arrives in Salisbury, he mugs and rapes software engineer Ben James in a deserted park, then kills Gillian Barnes for good measure. Ben, agonized with shame and pain, can’t bring himself to tell either the police or his current girlfriend, illustrator Dawn Reid, what’s happened, although it’s obvious to Dawn that something’s gone very wrong with him. Bombarded with police descriptions of a disheveled man emerging from the park shortly after the murder and realizing that they sound just like Ben, she fingers him to the police. So Ben, who’s already watched his sex life head south and gotten himself tested for AIDS, wonders in vain whether his life could get any worse. Of course it could, and it does. Meanwhile, Nick, who’d “never actually planned to kill anyone before, except his dad if he ever met him,” is still on the loose, and Dawn’s estranged husband, comic-book publisher Richard Reid, is succumbing to the wiles of Rachel Lane, an art student whose aggressively seductive tactics are scarcely less brutal in their way than Nick’s.
Though the climax is a letdown, Davis’s intensity is sure to leave a bad taste in your mouth for days.