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Wyka's first novel is a B-movie on paper: a fast little crime thriller about a weak-willed woman lured into the kidnapping of a girl. No words wasted here: on page one, Ann, a free-lance hairdresser, is asked by slick boyfriend Tom to ""take care of a little girl."" Seems Tom's boss, Carl, owner of the L.A. swimming pool outlet where Tom is star salesman, wants to shock wife Chloe out of her pill-popping. What better way than to fake the kidnapping of daughter Katie--and turn a profit at the same time by milking Chloe's rich dad for $100,000, five of which will go to Tom? Persuaded that the snatch will hurt no one, and under Tom's sexual spell, Ann reluctantly goes along, nabbing Katie from under Chloe's stoned nose and stashing the sweet kid at her home. The promised milk and honey soon sours, however, as Tom--who's beginning to resemble a spider toying with flies--tint lags in placing his ransom call to Tom and Chloe, then ups the ante to 400 grand. The next day, Boss Carl's body is found in his yard. Did spaced-out Chloe shoot him? Did Tom? Enter lesbian cop Karen Orr, determined to get the killer--and, when she learns of the kidnapping, to rescue Katie. Meanwhile, Ann, tending Katie through the pain of a badly cut hand, tumbles in love with the girl and finds two new motives for assisting Tom: fear that if she doesn't, he'll kill the kid; and ""wishful thinking"" that maybe, just maybe, she can keep Katie after the scare runs its course. An increasingly manic Tom--revealed as an ex-con and grade-A psycho--presses Chloe and her dad for the money, snuffing a cop 'along the way and setting up the payoff on a fog-bound beach, where he kills two others. In a violent climax aboard a sinking boat, knowing that she and Katie are next on his hit list, Ann battles both Tom and the freezing ocean, fighting to make her wish come true. Only the intrusive and wholly unnecessary lesbian-cop subplot drags the rush of this slight, cleanly written tale; even so, this is briskly enjoyable, if modest, noir fare.

Pub Date: June 15th, 1988
Publisher: Carroll & Graf