KISS OF DEATH by Daniel Rhodes

KISS OF DEATH

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KIRKUS REVIEW

An evil goddess awakens in Rhodes' third horror novel, a stylish semisequel to Next, After Lucifer (1987) and Adversary (1988). Rhodes opens with a very long prologue set in 1966: California vintner Donald Clermont, touring France with his 16-year-old daughter Lisa, winds up in the same region that gave birth to the evil wizard who stalked Rhodes' first two books. Intoxicated by a tale of how locals once worshipped a goddess who during the new moon rules as queen of hell, but who rewards loyal subjects with the gift of their heart's erotic desire, Clermont offers a libation of his blood to the goddess. That night, a woman of incredible allurement seduces him; but, simultaneously, an unseen assailant rapes Lisa, impregnating her. Back in California, Clermont becomes convinced that a demonic force violated Lisa; when she dies giving birth, he kills himself after smothering the baby--who survives. Cut to 1988: The child, Selena, now grown into a magnetic beauty, celebrates her return to her grandfather's mansion at a party attended by many--including noble physician Gene Farrell. Farrell is immediately entranced by Selena; little does he know that her vocation since puberty has been the sacrifice of men to the goddess--sacrifices necessary to save herself from the goddess' wrath, and enacted by coitus that awakens the evil within each man, which then attracts demons that consume him. But being half-human as well as half-demon, Selena so far has offered only cruel men--pederasts, thieves--to the demons, who now demand heartier fare--like Farrell. In love, Farrell risks his life for Selena, then saves her life; will she betray him? Indeed she will, and therein lies the unexpected plot curve that sweeps Farrell and Selena to their final, tragic destinies. Supple, moody prose lends an aura of ancient mystery to the story; despite unoriginal themes (that Clive Barker, for one, has handled with brighter invention) and some clumsy human-demon dialogue, it's Rhodes' best yet--a haunting work.

Pub Date: July 18th, 1990
Publisher: St. Martin's