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 Martin follows his striking Lie to Me (1990) with a horrific West Virginia gothic about a flipped-out TV anchorman's investigation of a physician with a special interest in babies. After he bursts into tears on the air over a story about child abuse, cold-fish newscaster John Lyon (``his Lordship'') is eased into a leave of absence given sudden direction by wizened black nurse Claire Cept: moments before she jumps in front of a taxi, Claire sticks him with a box of evidence against suave, blind Dr. Mason Quinndell--a man who raped her 14-year-old granddaughter and taunted her, years later, with stories of all the children he'd murdered. On arriving in Hameln, Lyon's greeted by a cast of grotesques ranging from Randolph Welby, a puzzled dwarf who's been rescuing Quinndell's victims and hiding them in a cave until they die, to a disappearing corpse in a coffin, who turns out to be Claire's living and very determined granddaughter, and who insists he go up against Quinndell and a scary crew of accomplices including: Mary Aurora, an inoffensive prostitute posing as Quinndell's nurse until her indentured year ends in a fat payoff and an introduction to her own long-since-adopted daughter; Carl, a brainless, obese sheriff's deputy equally devoted to Quinndell; and Mr. Spoon and Mr. Gigli, Quinndell's favorite torture toys, which will come out into the open for a spectacularly gruesome Fourth of July climax. As before, grisly tableaux--set with the kind of poetic sensitivity that makes them even more shocking--unerringly reflect psychosocial horrors beneath: there's nothing gratuitous in Martin's baroque encounter with evil. Strong stuff, no matter how you look at it.

Pub Date: July 1st, 1992
ISBN: 0-394-58471-6
Page count: 288pp
Publisher: Random House
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 15th, 1992


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