It purports to be a gothic novel, but any self-respecting gothic ought to generate a chill or two. This one doesn’t. When we first meet incredibly beautiful Holly Smith—a figure firmly rooted in romance fiction’she’s just discovered that she’s not Holly Smith at all. She’s Holly Randall. For reasons too complex to detail here, she was given away as a newborn to this nice California couple who raised her to be a proper middle-class girl with modest middle-class aspirations. Now, suddenly, she finds herself an heir to a great estate. Among a whole passel of worldly goods that she stands to inherit is the Randall manse, which, from a distance, looks “perfectly innocent.” But “appearances are deceiving,” we’re told. Consider Catherine and John Randall—on the surface splendid, at the core obligatorily rotten. These are the Randalls whom Holly is usurping. It will surprise no one that they hate her. They decide in an eyeblink that a hit man is their sole sensible recourse, then set about hiring one. Actually, the general population of Randall House loves to hate, and loves to act mysteriously. Who, for instance, is that cowled person prowling the premises at night? Who is the strange young woman obsessively burying a totemic baby? Around these and other enigmatic figures the plot twists, tirelessly. But where there’s no spark of life, there’s nothing to raise a goosebump. Pedestrian prose, stilted dialogue, wooden and/or overfamiliar characters. In his third time out (Valentine, 1994; Precipice, 1995, etc.), Savage takes a step back.