HEAD GAMES by Eileen Dreyer


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Nurse versus psycho, in a third hardcover by Dreyer (a.k.a. Kathleen Korbel).

Molly Burke isn’t just any nurse: she’s an ER trauma nurse and a death investigator for the city of St. Louis. Single, disowned by her patrician parents after her long-ago stint in Vietnam, she talks tough, has a heart of gold, and never sleeps through a Code Blue. Homicides, flatliners, abused kids, even a knife-wielding schizophrenic hiding a premature newborn in her raincoat pocket are all in a day’s work for hyperactive, Mylanta-swigging Molly, who has a quip for every horror and a culturally diverse assortment of pals to help her out, drawing on their carefully varied ethnic backgrounds for quips of their own. (Most of the dialogue consists of side-of-the-mouth, hardboiled one-liners, and Dreyer relies all too often on the prose equivalent of a television cliché: the adrenalin-pumped tracking shot through institutional corridors, complete with inert victim amid shouting cops and docs, weary and cynical but giving their all for justice, truth, and honor.) Gee whiz, Molly is just trying to make a living—but tell that to her stuck-up, successful brother and his ice-queen wife, who are off in China doing something of global importance while their sullen teenage son tries to steal priceless knickknacks. Molly lets the kid stay with her, warning him to mend his ways, but does she ever have other problems. Somebody’s throwing gift-boxed body parts (bones, eyeballs) into her yard. Who? Not the love interest, a handsome, wisecracking lawyer. He sends roses. Ah, hell—the sleazy local news station is going public with the story, and the evidence—including notes from an anonymous sicko between chapters—seems to point to a serial killer with a long, sad history of vicious childhood abuse. Did busy Molly lose track of a battered kid—and did he grow up to be St. Louis’s answer to Jeffrey Dahmer? Film at eleven.

Way too many jokes and not enough suspense in an otherwise solid thriller with a twist, though With a Vengeance (2002) was better.

Pub Date: March 17th, 2004
ISBN: 0-312-26578-6
Page count: 384pp
Publisher: St. Martin's
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1st, 2004


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