In Valencia’s well-orchestrated erotic thriller, a sexual predator seduces the stepdaughter of a wealthy businessman and sets out to ruin her life.
While in Algiers, rich, hedonistic pederast Pierre LeFanu acquires a young street urchin and takes the boy into his home, where he raises, clothes, feeds and educates him, and also abuses him and allows his friends to abuse him. Georges is too young to understand the vileness of what’s happening; later, at Pierre’s death, he weeps for one of the only times in his life. Regardless, deep damage is done: Georges grows up into a beautiful but heartless, manipulative gambler and sadist. When he meets Serena Cheetham at a dinner party, his good looks and aloofness immediately strike her as the perfect antidote to the straight-laced world of her mother and her mother’s society friends. Pierre’s death leaves Georges with a smaller inheritance than he’d expected, and although he begins acting erratically, Serena is already devoted to him. When her parents’ investigation of him turns up a long string of crimes in which Georges has been implicated (including two incidents where key witnesses subsequently disappeared), they confront Serena, who, after a brief moment of doubt, decides to stay with Georges. The two flee to America, where Serena introduces Georges to some of her wealthy acquaintances, one of whom—her good friend Rosario—echoes the same suspicions about Georges: “I just don’t get the feeling he is trustworthy.” All such suspicions serve only to make Serena more stubborn in her support of Georges, even as his gambling and petty verbal abuse escalate. When the misery of her choices finally overtakes her, she’s only too happy to indulge in the drugs supplied by Georges, who’s now feeling even more financially pressured amid his entanglements with Rosario’s secretly gay husband. As the characters become more and more tense and desperate, Valencia’s story accelerates. Despite occasionally wooden prose, readers can’t help but be enthralled by the descent into depravity.
A taut, accomplished novel about two lost souls finding—and destroying—each other.