CHILD OF SHADOWS by John Coyne

CHILD OF SHADOWS

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KIRKUS REVIEW

Mutilation murders, a Jonestown-style massacre, and child-impalement--these are just a few of the sordid ingredients that Coyne stirs with a shaky hand in his latest hex-and-sex potboiler (Fury, 1989, etc.). Who's the near-feral 13-year-old boy, bald and mute, found in the bowels of Grand Central Station and turned over to social-worker Melissa Vaughan? Melissa hasn't a clue--except for the ""Adam"" sewn into the boy's rags--but being 33, unmarried, and childless, she decides to raise the boy anyway. Not in New York, though; with Adam, she moves to the hamlet of Beaver Creek, N.C.; and into the schooner-shaped house she's rented from master potter and prize hunk Connor Connaghan. Melissa's scarcely unpacked, however, before she's caught up in a cockeyed web of weirdness. Adam takes up with the town idiot, an old hag who talks to her dead brother; a snake-handling, strychnine-drinking sect adopts Adam as their prophesied savior; savaged bodies--their hearts ripped out--turn up all over town; and Adam, though still mute, begins to paint masterpieces depicting killing-scenes or secrets of Melissa's childhood. Is Adam the town's homicidal maniac? Melissa finds some solace from this worry in hot sex with Connaghan (whose cocaine-dealing is just one of several dangling subplots) and in hotter, kinkier sex with visiting Gotham flame and colleague Greg Schnilling. But even Greg's mastery at spanking can't make Melissa ignore the scores of poisonous snakes that Adam frees in her house, or the further murders (including Adam's orchestration of the mass suicide of his worshippers), so finally the beleaguered woman skewers the boy with a knife. Back in N.Y.C., she decides that Adam was the conduit for an ""ancient evil""; but can ancient evil ever really die? Lots of nasty action, but, like Coyne's last few novels, as thin and ragged as wet tissue paper.

Pub Date: Oct. 16th, 1990
Publisher: Warner