LIMBO by Joseph P. DeSario


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Limbo"" ostensibly refers to the steamy barrio setting of this erratic thriller. But it applies just as easily 'to the murky results of first-timer DeSario's fleshing out a workable if unoriginal premise--plucky policewoman tracking psycho rapist--from stale characters, old-hat plot twists, and pseudo-occult jive. Third-generation cop Det. Brenda Collins, headstrong and beautiful, decoys for the Task Force assigned to capture El Castigo del Barrio, a vicious rapist terrorizing the L.A. Hispanic ghetto--a shattered cityscape DeSario paints vividly, in brash, grimy colors. During a routine inquiry, Brenda encounters a forbidding local parish priest, Cedric Anselm, who, unknown to Brenda but known to the reader, spends his nights baptizing fetuses stolen from the neighborhood abortion clinic by his Igor-like assistant, Tomas. Frightened by the priest's fire and brimstone aura, Brenda (in a wild-card move never made credible, but necessary for DeSario's jumbled plot mechanics) makes Anselm Suspect #1, even after her weird encounter with another (and much spookier) barrio figure, a brujo who communes with rattlesnakes and enters into a temporary and pointless psychic link with Brenda. Brenda's investigation of Anselm turns UP a series of mysterious hospitalizations; confronted, the priest tells her (in the novel's only truly dynamic scene) of his months spent as a POW in the Korean War: another ""Limbo,"" this one of mind-bending torture and fear. Now certain that Anselm's a nut, Brenda stalks him, only to stumble upon him confessing a shadowy figure who clearly is El Castigo--Anselm is innocent after all! Brenda then stalks this figure, who turns out to be--Tomas! But soon, after stumbling over Tomas' body, she must admit: Tomas was innocent after all! Finally the real El Castigo stands up: it's the neighborhood abortionist, for no good reason whatsoever: He and Anselm kill each other in a pitched battle while Brenda watches in terror. Not heavenly, but not hellish either; just. . .limbo-ish.

Pub Date: March 20th, 1987
Publisher: Doubleday