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A vicious, ski-masked rapist is at work in the Midwestern town where Matt Sessions manages a local TV station. And Matt--recently divorced, living with lovely real-estate woman Adele, guiltily grieving over his rebellious son's quasi-suicidal death--is at first only peripherally affected by the rape-crisis: he provides air-time to an anti-rape committee; he tries to comfort a colleague who is (secretly) one of the rape victims. But, slowly, Matt begins to suspect what Jones (Blood Secrets) lets readers in on almost from the start. Could handsome, charming, talented young Bud Hanes, the fiancÉ of Matt's beloved, semi-estranged daughter Joanna, be the rapist? He could indeed--because underneath that All-American exterior Bud is a seething mess of Oedipus Sex: deserted long ago by his father, Bud blames his beautiful, arthritic mother Lucille; he vents his fury on women he sees as deceitful or sinful; he remains obsessed with poor, frightened Lucille, driving off all of her would-be suitors. So, while a few small clues lead Matt to wonder whether his incipient son-in-law is a Jekyll-and-Hyde monster, Bud is (in between rapes) busily trying to identify his mother's latest lover--who, as it happens, is using the unknowing Matt's apartment for the trysts with Lucille. And when Bud figures this out, his irrational rage is turned on Matt himself: the next rape victim is Matt's platonic friend Jane, who dies of a heart attack during the attack; Matt is now sure that Bud is the maniac; and, with Joanna's reluctant help, he manages to catch Bud in the act. . . for a violent, satisfying finale. Jones works hard to make Bud's psychopathology believable--with so-so results. Matt's emotional turmoil, too, is only half-convincing: since the Bud nightmare exorcises his grief/guilt, he's at last ready to make a commitment to Adele. But though the unoriginal premise here is stretched out rather too long, it's solidly textured and agreeably peopled--so psycho-crime fanciers will find this a grim, graphic, yet relatively tasteful source of modest chills and steady suspense.

Pub Date: March 3rd, 1982
Publisher: Crown