NIGHTMARE by Marjorie Dorner


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A deviant killer preying on a divorced mother and her young daughter: nightmarish? Not in the clumsy hands of first-novelist Dorner, who misses myriad opportunities for suspense while weaving a too-loose and too-obvious Deathwishclone morality play. Dorner starts off on a promising note, with Linda Hammond, mother of 11-year-old Dana, breaking into the house of-Jack Ryter (""A madman lives here!""), stealing his gun. Turns out, we learn via flashback, that Ryter, single dad of one of Dana's classmates, had forced Dana into his car, kissing her and driving towards the countryside; but Dana escaped and put the finger on Ryter, now in jail awaiting arraignment. Regrettably, this solid setup yields a disappointing payout; what follows comes slowly and with little tension: Ryter calls Brenda from jail, threatening both her and Dana; the sympathetic cop in charge of the case, Lt. Arnold Willman, fumes but can do nothing, even though he suspects Ryter of two previous child murders. At arraignment, Ryter receives reduced bail from a lenient judge and walks. Staying within legal limits, careful to avoid Willman's grasp, Ryter begins to stalk a terrified Linda, who finally decides to take matters into her own hands. She sneaks into Ryter's house and, when he returns home from work, shoots him. hoping to feign a suicide. For the final third of the book. Willman gathers evidence about Ryter's dealh--all of it points to murder--while Linda concocts schemes to destroy the evidence (return to Ryter's house to wipe off fingerprints, etc); finally, Willman makes it clear to Linda that he knows she killed Ryter, but in the interests of justice will let her go free. Despite a couple of tense scenes, overall a good idea poorly executed: an inept exercise in manipulating readers' fears, made feebler by underlying pretensions to social relevancy.

Pub Date: March 23rd, 1987
Publisher: McGraw-Hill