Anderson (The Devil Made Me Do It Again and Again, 2016, etc.) tells the story of a vicious series of murders in a small Illinois town in this thriller.
Seventeen-year-old Joyce Roberts underwent an unbelievable trauma when she was 6—her father killed her older sister, and the event left both her mind and body scarred. Now an orphan living with her grandparents, she tries to acclimate to life as a normal teenager. She excitedly agrees to attend the senior prom with Tony Virusso, the most popular boy in school. Things go well, and Tony takes Joyce to the cool kids’ after-party. But after the two go off to an empty room with the intention of sleeping together, the night goes off the rails: Tony’s jealous ex-girlfriend bursts into the room, revealing Joyce’s hideous scars to the school’s social elite and causing her to flee into the night. Things get even worse, however, when someone murders the other partygoers, including Tony. The victims are all struck in the head, and the faces of the men bashed in. Det. Sgt. Carl Erickson and Dr. Marsha Wade, the police team assigned to investigate the murders, guess that the assailant is most likely a woman, and the identity of the killer may have something to do with Joyce’s troubled past. Anderson originally published this novel in 1989, but this edition has been revised and updated with more contemporary references; one character, for example, is described as a “Britney Spears lookalike.” Still, the book has the feel of a vintage 1980s pulp novel, which may help distract readers from the plot’s more predictable elements. Overall, it traffics in mostly enjoyable camp, featuring scenes of gore (“Pools of blood ruined the carpet and flecks of blood and brains stained the wallpaper”), sex (“his hands slid up her thighs to probe again at her liquid center”), and dated teen dialogue (“Is she Gary’s steady?”). That said, its tendency to dwell on the size of female characters’ breasts is somewhat off-putting.
A kitschy murder-mystery thriller with a retro feel.