RAMPAGE by Susan Taylor Chehak


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A thriller that hoards most of its power for the last chapter and even then is not a happy or attractive reading experience. Chehak wrote 1993’s Dancing on Glass, among others, and here again (like in some Faulkner) one spends a lot of time peering through the murk of excess and outsize words, trying to grasp what’s happened—and why. Rafe Ramsay is surely insane, or at least psycho. We first meet him in Monarch, Oregon, where he kills the foster parents of four-year-old Joliet Anne Ray; kidnaps the girl, and returns to his home in Rampage, Iowa. Then that story fades and the focus switches to the return of Madlen Cramer and her own two children from Los Angeles to her family home in Rampage, where she—ll live with her widower father, Deem Malek, whose wife, Grinnell, killed herself after cuckolding Deem and taking up loose living and barn dancing with almost anyone who asked her. Deem has now married the much younger Ruth, who’s about to deliver their first child. Meanwhile, we also learn that Madlen’s late husband, Haven, with whom she grew up—and with whom she and Rafe swore a blood pact—had lost interest in Madlen, acquired a mistress and a second apartment, and was then killed in a blazing auto accident. We discover, too, that Madlen’s daughter Claire had seen Rafe hanging around the vicinity of their Los Angeles apartment, and—what’s more—that jealous Rafe may have had something to do with Haven’s death. He certainly had a lot to do with the death of Grinnell’s lover, Jack Daggett, whom Rafe had beaten when Jack collapsed from a stroke. After all, Jack had thrown Rafe out of a hayloft when Rafe found Jack making love to Grinnell. And so on, and so on. Pages and pages of fine observation fatally delay any possible whiff of suspense.(Author tour)

Pub Date: Aug. 17th, 1998
ISBN: 0-385-48452-6
Page count: 352pp
Publisher: Doubleday
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15th, 1998


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