Cartoonist Charles Schulz's son chronicles the violent aftermath of a teen-aged girl's rape in backwoodsy Rivertown, California. After Sarah Miller and her friends tell Chief Carroll Howser that she was raped and beaten by a gang of drifters near the Green River, a vigilante posse goes down to the hobo jungle to round up the suspects--but ends up killing one of them and letting another get away. When Sarah is killed a few days later, the townspeople fear that the escaped man, an inarticulate giant known only as the Kid, is hiding nearby waiting to further take revenge--and hysteria mounts when three of the teens who were with Sarah on the night of the rape are killed and her loutish boyfriend Jamie Danielson terrorized by someone he can't describe. But Chief Howser, linking the murders to the deaths of several hobos before he came into town as head of the police force, wonders whether the killer--who eventually moves up from teen victims to the police themselves--might be somebody else, like rootless Jack Clayton (who blew into town just before the rape and wormed himself into dispatcher Jane Crockett's life) or mysteriously surviving Jamie himself. Though clues and motive are perfunctory, the atmosphere--small-town anomie at its most oppressive--is so menacing that the violence, graphic and repeated, comes with the cathartic relief of a summer thunderstorm. An impressively moody first novel. Reading it is like watching the cast of Twin Peaks slowly picked off by several competing villains.