PRESUMED DEAD by Hugh Holton


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A macabre thriller about the underbelly of 1997 Chicago that plays with readers' notions of identity and social respectability. In the years since the inception of the National Space and Science Museum, 183 people have vanished from its environs. Missing individuals are always classified ""Missing: Presumed Dead"" in police files. While patrolling the museum at closing time, police officer Edna Gray thinks she sees a ghost. Shortly thereafter, a barfly who tries to pick up Eurydice Vaughn, the museum's stunning curator, disappears. Readers then discover that Eurydice lives beneath the museum with her deformed brother Homer and her evil mother, known only as the Mistress. By day, Eurydice heads the museum expertly; by night, she runs through its deserted halls in black spandex. At a costume party thrown in the museum, Eurydice's designs on Commander Larry Cole (who resembles a man who made love to her when she was very young) are thwarted when Edna, who looks remarkably similar to Eurydice, seduces him instead. Eurydice and Homer receive harsh punishment from the Mistress after the party for having behaved in a disorderly manner without permission. Meanwhile, two local mystery writers begin to question the museum's top officials about Eurydice's personal history. Simultaneously, the city wishes to build an addition to the museum on Seagull Island. Numerous storylines collide when construction starts a flood that drives Eurydice, the Mistress, and Homer into the hands of the police. Readers then learn the true identities of the Mistress and her children. Holton, a police commander, has written an imaginative first novel that sometimes slouches towards cheesiness -- or even camp. The characters tend toward the sterotypical -- evil mother, strong-willed police commander, ambitious and independent policewoman -- but the plot generally carries them. A mixture of a police story, a horror tale, and a romance that only occasionally falls short of its own ambitions.

Pub Date: July 1st, 1994
Page count: 320pp
Publisher: Forge -- dist. by St. Martin's