TORSOS by John Peyton Cooke


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 Headless trunks litter the grimy, Depression-era Cleveland scenery in a raunchy crime novel--Cooke's hardcover debut--based on actual, awful events. Homicide detective Hank ``Lucky'' Lambert, perhaps the only cop in Cleveland not on the take, leads the investigation into a growing number of grisly murders. It's revealed early on that the victims have all been decapitated and largely dismembered by handsome, smooth-talking pharmacist and machete-wielding homosexual sadist Mott Hessler, estranged scion of a prominent oil-refining family. Detective Lambert has plenty of complications in his difficult investigation: local politics are in an uproar as the Democratic machinery breaks down; new safety director and historic figure Eliot Ness's hosing out of the police stables leaves Lambert without his clever-but-bent partner; Hessler's victims are mostly anonymous drifters and prostitutes with no political constituency; and Lambert, gay but married and closeted, is falling in love with handsome young Danny Cottone, a hustler and one of the very few people to have known some of the victims. Ness, fresh from his well-publicized Chicago triumphs, has his own worries: He needs fresh victories; the city fathers would like the case wrapped up without any stink; the mayor is dangling future political office before him; and his marriage is collapsing. Ness and Lambert, both professionally straight and emotionally bent, work well together- -but not fast enough. Butchered bodies keep popping up, and Mr. Hessler gets closer and closer to poor dumb Danny. Not for the fainthearted. Graphic sex and violence and Photoplay-style prose will have gentler readers reaching for the oxygen.

Pub Date: Jan. 1st, 1994
ISBN: 0-89296-522-3
Page count: 368pp
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 1st, 1993