THE PIED PIPER by Robert Paier


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Though written with non-exploitative calm and relative restraint, this novelization of a homosexual's mass-murder of teenage boys (apparently modeled on a recent Texas case, not the very recent Chicago one) still never works as fiction--only as non-fiction manqu‚, lacking the crucial, chilling resonance of True Crime. Revelation of the ""most heinous series of crimes in the history of the United States"" begins when West Haven, Conn., police arrest foul young Lee Criley after his murder of 33-year-old Earl Harmen. Not only does Criley confess to killing Harmen but also to helping Harmen in the now-and-then torture and murder of 27 teenagers--and he leads the cops to where the bodies are buried. As the corpses are unearthed, Paier flashes back to sketch in Harmen's psycho-history: adored by an adulterous mother, raped by a brutal stepfather, repelled by normal sex, repressed and alone in the Army and at home till adopting the role of big-brother to neighborhood kids. With occasional lapses (""the monster, the powerful, blood-crazed animal""), Paler mostly lets the quiet, never more explicit than necessary, description of Harmen's hideous crimes generate the horror--with some truly ghastly moments when Paler imagines the thoughts of some of the youngest victims. But aside from such moments, and despite the relatively convincing psycho-portraits of Harmen and his somehow-even-worse accomplice, this mockup has neither the depth and development of fiction nor the In Cold Blood aura of fact. Still, the documentary style will encourage some chill-seeking readers to disregard that word ""novel"" on the cover.

Pub Date: March 18th, 1979
Publisher: McGraw-Hill