Perhaps not for everyone, but here, actually, is an S-M novel with soul. Rachel Kee, a 30-ish Jewish divorcÃ‰e living in London with her pre-school-aged child, Carrie, has her morning coffee and reads about a rapist in the news. The rapist and a female accomplice abducted a girl in Scotland, tied her up, and forced her to do their will. The artist's composite of the male perpetrator leaps off the page at Rachel: It's Joshua. She met Joshua Abelman at a party--he's middle-aged, a little dumpy, and wonderfully exciting in bed, especially when he spanks. He tends to make love to Rachel brutally and then disappear for long periods. Rachel also has other troubles, including a suicidal boy she tutors, severe depressions that have driven her into the hospital more than once, and the fact that her father abandoned her and her mother went mad, leaving her with a Freudian bouquet of deep-seated psychic wounds. Now she must contend with whether or not to turn Joshua in. She delays action and instead begins a lesbian liaison with her best friend. But when matters look the bleakest and Rachel seems least capable of extricating herself from the sad patterns of her life, she reveals that she has, apparently, formulated a plan and, without telling the reader, acts it out, proving in the bitter end to be Joshua's match. That this novel can be touching despite its sordid topic, that it can give us the requisite voyeuristic glance at practices that at once repel and fascinate, while making us like and understand its unhappy protagonist, is a tribute to this first novelist. Effective, absorbing fiction.