BY REASON OF by M.R. Henderson


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Even cruder and thinner than If I Should Die (1985), Henderson's second psycho-melodrama takes place during an overdone gothic rainstorm in L.A.--complete with washed-out roads, hazardous mud-slides, and (naturally) a homicidal maniac on the loose. The psycho is one Luke Miller, who killed his wife, spent eight years in a hospital for the criminally insane. . .but is now on a killing spree after being released, supposedly ""cured."" Caught in the storm, Miller takes refuge by breaking into the Coldwater Canyon home of commercial-actress Eve Foxx, a recent widow with four-year-old daughter Cindy. So it's no time before the maniac is terrorizing Eve, forbiding her to get medical help for feverish, frail Cindy. (The death of Miller's own little daughter triggered his original homicidal rage.) Then there's an unfortunate visit from Eve's jealous sister-in-law Doric, who (something of a psycho herself) tries to bully the maniac--and is promptly strangled by him. And finally, after Eve makes a few feeble tries at incapacitating the villain, there's an attempted escape during a nasty mud-slide (""The hillside had given way!"")--which leads to the unlikely rescue of Eve and Cindy by. . .none other than crazy Miller himself. (The lunatic/hero has come to believe that Cindy is his own beloved daughter.) Henderson attempts to fill out this chintzy episode with flimsy digressions: rehashes of Miller's case by cops and shrinks; and the faraway frettings of Eve's new suitor, a lawyer who just happens to specialize in the insanity plea. But the psychology is cartoonish (apparently gleaned from daytime TV), the issues are a half-baked muddle, and what remains is plot, totally unimaginative pulp-suspense--the sort of thing that makes Mary Higgins Clark look like Daphne du Maurier.

Pub Date: April 18th, 1986
Publisher: Doubleday