WHEN A DARKNESS FALLS by Paul Zindel

WHEN A DARKNESS FALLS

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KIRKUS REVIEW

Psycho-sexual domestic horror--in a lurid, exploitative (yet glossy) first ""adult"" novel from a veteran YA author. Jack and Marjorie Krenner have recently moved to Beverly Hills from N.Y.; Marjorie, while tending two tots, is trying to write a novel; Jack is frantically trying to keep big bucks coming in from screenplays. Meanwhile, there's a series of grisly, sexual mutilation-murders in the area--investigated by veteran cop Lichteiman. Could there be a connection between the Krenners and the murders? Well, the hints start coming pretty quickly: Jack, flying to his mother's deathbed, recalls her traumatizing threats of castration; then Marjorie realizes that Jack's on cocaine (which is soon providing them with super-sex); and then Marjorie sees Jack urinating into the family milk! By now, reader-wise, it's clear that Jack is the psycho-rapist-killer. Marjorie only knows that something's wrong (""Who was this man, this man she was holding?""), and she's somewhat reassured when Jack agrees to try psychotherapy. But then, in the novel's last 100 pages, there's a drawn-out night of horror: Marjorie catches Jack about to rape their four-year-old daughter and flees with the kids; Jack plays cat-and-mouse with cop Lichteiman, to whom he's been sending teasing clues (including a victim's ovary); and finally Jack captures Marjorie, terrorizes the kids. . . with a cop-rescue in the nick of time. Zindel offers slick, lively movie-biz backgrounds here, complete with authentic deal-jargon and nasty roman à clef party-chat (fat producer Alex Barr is ""the only faggot I know who has a dirty mansion""); he could probably write a juicy Hollywood novel in the manner of William Goldman's Tinsel. His psycho-thriller, however, is thinly plotted, psychologically unpersuasive, and gratuitously graphic--an especially offensive flaw in a novel that earnestly generalizes about violence toward women. (""We're living in a time where men and women do not particularly like each other."") For credible, gripping treatment of the My-Husband-the-Psycho premise, see, instead, Norah Lofts' The Claw (1982).

Publisher: Bantam