Psychothriller by first-novelist Craig sustained throughout by rich stylization. Craig starts off with a literary hang, introducing her plot as indirectly as Faulkner introduces Popeye's rape of Temple Drake in Sanctuary--and in nearly as high-flown a voice as Faulkner's. Can Craig go the distance at this level? Well, the fine vocalizing never stops, but the plot at last turns on the familiar villainies of the obsessive psychopath we first met in Thomas Harris's Red Dragon. Harris's serial murderer identified with Blake's drawing of Lucifer; Craig's magnetically handsome killer (who kills by the family) is crazed by a tree of rage he believes is growing within him and whose image he's been carving in scar tissue on his body--a fact telegraphed about half-way through the novel. Clarada Hale, a Navy widow with three kids, has been waiting for four years for her MIA submariner husband to return from the dead. Instead, a figure from her past reappears and kidnaps her: Cleve Morrow, a prodigy who loved Clary but murdered her parents when she was 17, was put into a mental institution and there educated himself in criminal law, anatomy, and whatnot. Now, like De Niro in Cape Fear, he's back. The story, though, is told largely through the eyes of Clary's kids--Teah, 16, Michael, 15, and Tommy, a toddler--who find themselves alone in their house one morning. Where's mother? Gone? They can't believe it and keep house for themselves for nearly a week awaiting her return, get drunk, and reduce the place to a stinking pigsty. Clues arise that get them to drive down the East Coast in search of Mom and toward the fated meeting with Cleve and his prisoner Clary, with an inescapable final chase of the family through the Florida jungle. A debut that should be a big hit and begs for film.