TOPPING FROM BELOW by Laura Reese

TOPPING FROM BELOW

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KIRKUS REVIEW

 Erotic suspense--or so it's billed--about a woman's introduction to sadomasochism while seeking her sister's murderer. Reese's debut is hyped as a sexy novel, but readers with no leaning toward S&M may well read the whole thing without a single sexual impulse. It's also hyped as forever topping itself with increasingly outrageous examples of bondage--but the intensity actually levels off mid-novel and stays there. Reporter Nora Tibbs takes time off from her job to investigate the unsolved murder of her sister Franny, whose body was found mutilated in her apartment. Nora suspects Michael M., a middle-aged music professor Franny was seeing. When Nora insinuates herself into his company, Michael knows who she is and agrees to reveal secrets about Franny in exchange for Nora's giving in to a little paddling and pinching- -well, actually a lot. As agreed, Michael feeds Nora scraps of Franny's diary--scraps revealing that Franny felt responsible for their younger brother Billy's death and that since her teen years Nora has kept herself emotionally distant from Franny. As Nora collects evidence that M. killed her sister when the duo went too far in a bondage game, M. gradually turns Nora into his willing sex slave by building up her punishments and thus her emotional investment in him. To her credit, Reese tells all this in clear- eyed prose without a glimmer of porno-purple, intelligent storytelling that adds spice where hyperbole would only weaken the tale. In a subplot, Nora's boyfriend Ian, a fellow reporter whose former girlfriend Cheryl was also murdered, feels left out of her life as M.'s acts of bondage lessen Nora's ability to respond to normal sex. At story's end, Nora knows she's been bent, perhaps forever. Not really erotic, but likely to be talked about. (First printing of 100,000; Literary Guild alternate selection)

Pub Date: June 16th, 1995
ISBN: 0-312-12000-1
Page count: 368pp
Publisher: St. Martin's
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 15th, 1995