SECRET STRANGERS by Thomas Tessier


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 Tessier's shift from occult horror (Phantom, 1982, etc.) to psychosexual suspense (Rapture, 1987, etc.) hasn't brought his fiction much closer to reality--as witnessed by this far-fetched if fast-moving tale about a teenage girl who takes on a murderous child-sex ring. Poor Heidi Luckner. Her dad disappeared two months ago; her helpless, booze-loving mom wants to sell their house; and now the neighboring Seatons, as Heidi discovers from some photos she finds while babysitting their daughter, turn out to belong to a group of perverts with a taste for underage flesh. What's a girl to do? The revelation of all this rot beneath her postcard-perfect town sends Heidi reeling into a wild state in which she nearly seduces Mrs. Seaton (Tessier slathers on the sex-tease here), then steals the photos. Working with her boyfriend, Gary, Heidi blackmails the Seatons for $25,000, then tries to nail them for $225,000 more-- only to find the couple and their child slaughtered in what's made to look like a murder-suicide. A distraught Heidi is ready to destroy the photos, but greedy Gary, having recognized another adult in them, tries more blackmail--and winds up dead. And that ends Heidi's criminal career--until another neighbor contacts her about the Seatons; his wife was also murdered, with the death made to look like suicide. Putting clues together, he and Heidi realize that a child-sex ring that kills to protect itself is operating in town. The pair trace the ring to Manhattan, where a vicious confrontation finds Heidi blazing away like Clint Eastwood in a skirt and then hunting down the ring's leader, whose identity isn't nearly as surprising as Tessier hopes. Tessier works hard, piling his pages with lots of emotion, lurid sex, and bloody action; but Heidi's metamorphosis from teen queen to blackmailer to caped avenger is so unlikely as to seem silly, making this, finally, not much more than a dark-hearted Perils of Pauline.

Pub Date: April 15th, 1993
ISBN: 0-913165-68-9
Page count: 250pp
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 1st, 1993


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