THE DEVIL'S MENAGERIE by Louis Charbonneau


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 A weary retread of Jim Thompson's The Killer Inside Me, by the author of, most recently, The Magnificent Siberian (1995). Ralph Beringer sounds like Terry Bradshaw crossed with Ted Bundy: A clean-cut serial killer who finishes off his victims by carving their initials on their bodies. Ralph's reign of horror began eight years ago in Germany when, as an Air Force sergeant, he murdered a young girl and her beau. Carrying a vicious torch for his ex-wife, Ralph now returns to California and resumes his bloody rampage. His ex, Glenda Lindstrom, has remarried--to college professor Dave--but she continues to obsess over her loathing for the abusive, misogynistic Ralph. Dave, meanwhile, is about as compelling as an end table, and his wooden presence is scarcely improved by his inability to accept Glenda's assessment that Ralph is pure evil made flesh. The man is mighty wicked, though: A few days after hitting town, Ralph abducts, rapes, and kills his first stateside victim. This gets Detective Timothy Braden, a cop with a Rodney King taint on his record, and a sassy FBI agent, Karen Younger, in on the act. From then on it's all Cape Fear, with Ralph engaged in a lunkish effort to frame Dave for the murders while closing in on the precious family unit. Along the way, the psycho spends a little quality time with his son Richie via an offbeat kidnapping. Ultimately, only the unproven Agent Younger stands between the nearly defenseless Lindstroms and a carnage-addled Ralph. Mediocre thriller work--and, at times, flat-out awful.

Pub Date: June 20th, 1996
ISBN: 1-55611-494-X
Page count: 288pp
Publisher: Donald Fine
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 15th, 1996


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