HARM'S WAY by Stephen White

HARM'S WAY

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KIRKUS REVIEW

 After a brief semi-hiatus (Higher Authority, 1994), in which his lawyer wife was featured, improbable sleuthing headshrink Alan Gregory returns. Not that the premise isn't admirably serpentine and sexually kinky: Gregory's pal Peter Arvin, a master carpenter, is found murdered, lashed to a piano on the stage of an old Boulder, Colorado, theater, stabbed 16 times. The cops have found semen stains in the theater's seats, and surmise, after a similar killing in another town, that they've got a serial killer on their hands. The motive is elusive, however, so Gregory finds himself recruited to develop a psychological profile of the murderer. Trouble is that the two killings bear few real similarities, apart from the spilled seed. Once again, White offers plenty of red herrings, compounded here by Arvin's traumatic past (he was involved in the death of a young hiker caught in a brushfire), his affair with his son's nanny, and a suspicious business relationship with an old friend. Meanwhile, Gregory gets help from his devoted wife, who suffers from MS, and from a police buddy, Sam Purdy. Initial single-killer theories soon give way to a deliciously sick, Helter Skelter explanation that has the murders being conducted by a troupe of bloodthirsty performance artists, but the author lets that one go in favor of plot convolutions that wend in more pedestrian directions: Everything seems to hinge on the circumstances surrounding that brushfire. There is some good fun along the way, including a memorable cement-mixer chase scene and a few extra murders, but White spends far too much time filtering the investigation through Gregory's nebbishy perspective for matters to get properly thrilling. Then there's the ceaseless shilling for the virtues of Western landscape, plus an annoying interweaving of the play Miss Saigon with the book's story. Not a huge disappointment for Gregory fans, but certainly a test of their patience. (Author tour)

Pub Date: March 1st, 1996
ISBN: 0-670-85861-7
Page count: 352pp
Publisher: Viking
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1st, 1996




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