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Admirers of last year’s Nineteen Seventy-Four (the first in the Red Riding Quartet), awash in cut up bodies, castration, girls scalped, strangled, stuff like that may sit back and fix themselves a rich second helping of the same bloody pudding, now even worse, if the tum-tum’s game.

The Yorkshire Ripper’s loose in Chapeltown, colorful bloke likes to really damage prostitutes, bash in their skulls, cut their throats, hollow out their breasts and stomachs with a screwdriver. Third body the constables know about is that of Mrs. Marie Watts, a prosty, and with the Jubilee upon us, we can expect enough bodies for two Rippers—and there may be two. So the whole Chapeltown force becomes the prostitute murder squad, sent out to interview all the local prosties for johns who like a bit of strange—say, biting, or up the arse without a condom or a by your leave, spooky stuff, give us names and addresses, ladies. Peace lays on such heavy lashings of British police argot that few US readers will grasp every turn of phrase or obscene coinage. We hop about with copper Bob Fraser, sometimes in the first-person, and Yorkshire Post correspondent Jack Whitehead, also sometimes in the first-person. All told, six women are murdered, four assaulted—including Bob Fraser’s girlfriend, Janice Ryan, who is pregnant with his child and for whom he pimps, and Jack Whitehead’s prosty, Ka Su Peng (assaulted only). Meanwhile, peppered over every chapter, are true-crime slayings and grisly bloodlettings from 1977’s newspapers until Nineteen Seventy-Seven is a Boschian landscape of corpses chest-deep in gore, no longer the mere tea-party of previous installment. Not an easy novel to follow, and many will have to read the end twice to make sense of the frantic battery and horror Peace lets fly, with one Ripper at least getting a taste of his own screwdriver.

The big sweet hell of a sleepover in bloody hospital rubbish, with pieces of bone, lumps of brain, and white panties.

Pub Date: Aug. 1st, 2001
ISBN: 1-85242-639-X
Page count: 332pp
Publisher: Serpent’s Tail
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 1st, 2001


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