Brett takes a shivery break from his comic mysteries about second-rate actor Charles Paris (A Reconstructed Corpse, 1994, etc.) and comfy widow Melita Pargeter (Mrs. Pargeter's Pound of Flesh, 1993, etc.) in this lightning-fast tale of the sins of the father being visited on his children and his children's children. Abused for years by the monstrous father who eventually died in jail after strangling her mother, TV news director Laura Fisher has resolved to keep her distance from men. After three years of sleepwalking through marriage to unloving estate agent Michael Rowntree back in the Sixties, she cold-bloodedly picked up a stranger to impregnate her--the child, naturally, was a boy- -even before she knew her romance with a married New Zealand documentarist was hopeless. When her equally abused brother Kent, who grew up to join the Bristol CID, celebrated her son Tom's birth by telling her that her one-night stand strangled a young woman who resembled Laura hours after leaving her hotel room, Laura wondered what fatality linked her family to acts of violence. But none of these premonitions prepares her for Tom's own shocking coming-of-age 23 years later. First, his self- satisfied girlfriend Emily Howard alleges that he attacked her without warning in bed; then Emily's strangled minutes after leaving Laura's place, and Tom disappears, presumably the victim of a blood curse he inherited from both sides of his family. Just in case everything seems a little too straightforward, Laura's unlikable ex and her New Zealand lover are back in the picture too; but no reader will take as long as poor Laura to get to the bottom of the intergenerational skullduggery. Mary Higgins Clark without the extra calories. It's obvious early on where the one-dimensional story is going, but it hurtles along so relentlessly that you won't feel cheated.