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A psychokiller stalks Miami in Buchanan's first novel--a strong, complex mix of crackerjack cop-crime detailing and less inspired melodrama. Who's the rampaging killer who's been blowing away assorted citizens during the sultry Florida summer? That's the nut that three Miami cops--young and sexy Rick Banish and Mary Ellen ""Dusty"" Dustin, once an item, and middle-aged Jim Ransom--have to crack. We, however, learn early on who the killer is--or are: Rick's live-in girlfriend, Laurel, who houses in her sweet unsuspecting head a host of multiple personalities, including, among others, cocky Alex and finicky Harriet, both with homicidal tendencies, and nymphomaniac Marilyn. Grittily authentic scenes of the cops working their 24-hour shifts, doggedly pursuing leads--a spent bullet here, a witnessing there--intercut with more stilted scenes of Laurel's brood--Alex, most often--menacing Miamians, and downright silly scenes of the gang gathering in Laurel's head to parry the cops' investigation. Egged on by jealous Marilyn, the brood decide that Dusty is their main enemy, and lay bait to frame her as the killer. Rick bites, beginning an undercover investigation of his partner--but only after sleeping with her one drunken night. Meanwhile, this main plot spins off into several zingy subplots, most notably that of a headless-corpse case, solved by Dusty in a chilling scene in which she discovers the head stored away in a lunatic's refrigerator. But Dusty's triumph is short-lived, with she--and then partner Jim--meeting grisly fates in a contrived, distressingly sour conclusion. Suspenseful, and flush with the deep savvy of Florida cops and their milieu that made Miami Herald police reporter Buchanan's nonfiction memoir, The Corpse Had a Familiar Face (1987), a smashing read--but histrionic plotting, forgettable heroes, and an unconvincing if original villain make this only a solid, rather than exceptional, fiction debut.

Pub Date: Feb. 26th, 1990
Publisher: Random House