and lock in new members to his cult.

PENNY DREADFUL

Please deposit four quarters to read the following, about a novel that bears bits of colored glass and has sex coming from

it in waves. A warning: Some will not grasp, and if they grasp will not like, Baer’s crazed world of death-chocolates and bloody strawberries, all done in a neon noir express influenced by the Siamese Bills, Burroughs, and Gibson. Baer’s superbly stylized debut novel, Kiss Me, Judas (1998), is Penny Dreadful’s prequel. That one opened with Internal Affairs Division detective Phineas Poe ratting on his own agency in Denver, recovering from a nervous breakdown after his wife’s death, picking up Jude in a bar, being given a horse tranquillizer, then waking in a bathtub full of ice with a kidney missing, his side stapled closed and a phone nearby with the note "Phone 911 to save your life." A wonderful opening, with unrelenting invention throughout. There’s no dimming of same here, either, although for sheer weirdness the storytelling rockets to even higher levels of glowing semiconsciousness. The missing-kidney ploy is replaced by The Game, in which Chrome, the boyfriend of the exquisite Goo (a.k.a. Eve), and assisted by Mingus the Breather (a.k.a. Matthew Roar), finds starved, bruised, and bombed- out Tremblers in alleys and bites out, chews, and swallows their tongues. Phineas has returned penniless from South America and Mexico and is put up by Eve/Goo. He calls his star-crossed buddy Detective Walter Moon for help, and Moon enlists him in finding homicide cop Jimmy Sky, who has faded from sight along with 13 other deep-cover narcs and vice cops. Thus at last Phineas is led to master villain Theseus the Glove. Demanding, violently lighted changes of brainscape keep you blinking. The baffled reader often feels like someone sitting at a red light with eyes shrunk to pinpricks and horns honking hysterically behind. Baer’s over-the-top magic, however, will attract

and lock in new members to his cult.

Pub Date: March 6, 2000

ISBN: 0-670-88920-2

Page Count: 224

Publisher: Viking

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2000

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The best-selling author of tearjerkers like Angel Falls (2000) serves up yet another mountain of mush, topped off with...

SUMMER ISLAND

Talk-show queen takes tumble as millions jeer.

Nora Bridges is a wildly popular radio spokesperson for family-first virtues, but her loyal listeners don't know that she walked out on her husband and teenaged daughters years ago and didn't look back. Now that a former lover has sold racy pix of naked Nora and horny himself to a national tabloid, her estranged daughter Ruby, an unsuccessful stand-up comic in Los Angeles, has been approached to pen a tell-all. Greedy for the fat fee she's been promised, Ruby agrees and heads for the San Juan Islands, eager to get reacquainted with the mom she plans to betray. Once in the family homestead, nasty Ruby alternately sulks and glares at her mother, who is temporarily wheelchair-bound as a result of a post-scandal car crash. Uncaring, Ruby begins writing her side of the story when she's not strolling on the beach with former sweetheart Dean Sloan, the son of wealthy socialites who basically ignored him and his gay brother Eric. Eric, now dying of cancer and also in a wheelchair, has returned to the island. This dismal threesome catch up on old times, recalling their childhood idylls on the island. After Ruby's perfect big sister Caroline shows up, there's another round of heartfelt talk. Nora gradually reveals the truth about her unloving husband and her late father's alcoholism, which led her to seek the approval of others at the cost of her own peace of mind. And so on. Ruby is aghast to discover that she doesn't know everything after all, but Dean offers her subdued comfort. Happy endings await almost everyone—except for readers of this nobly preachy snifflefest.

The best-selling author of tearjerkers like Angel Falls (2000) serves up yet another mountain of mush, topped off with syrupy platitudes about life and love.

Pub Date: March 1, 2001

ISBN: 0-609-60737-5

Page Count: 336

Publisher: Crown

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2001

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TRUE BETRAYALS

Thoroughbreds and Virginia blue-bloods cavort, commit murder, and fall in love in Roberts's (Hidden Riches, 1994, etc.) latest romantic thriller — this one set in the world of championship horse racing. Rich, sheltered Kelsey Byden is recovering from a recent divorce when she receives a letter from her mother, Naomi, a woman she has believed dead for over 20 years. When Kelsey confronts her genteel English professor father, though, he sheepishly confesses that, no, her mother isn't dead; throughout Kelsey's childhood, she was doing time for the murder of her lover. Kelsey meets with Naomi and not only finds her quite charming, but the owner of Three Willows, one of the most splendid horse farms in Virginia. Kelsey is further intrigued when she meets Gabe Slater, a blue-eyed gambling man who owns a neighboring horse farm; when one of Gabe's horses is mated with Naomi's, nostrils flare, flanks quiver, and the romance is on. Since both Naomi and Gabe have horses entered in the Kentucky Derby, Kelsey is soon swept into the whirlwind of the Triple Crown, in spite of her family's objections to her reconciliation with the notorious Naomi. The rivalry between the two horse farms remains friendly, but other competitors — one of them is Gabe's father, a vicious alcoholic who resents his son's success — prove less scrupulous. Bodies, horse and human, start piling up, just as Kelsey decides to investigate the murky details of her mother's crime. Is it possible she was framed? The ground is thick with no-goods, including haughty patricians, disgruntled grooms, and jockeys with tragic pasts, but despite all the distractions, the identity of the true culprit behind the mayhem — past and present — remains fairly obvious. The plot lopes rather than races to the finish. Gambling metaphors abound, and sexual doings have a distinctly equine tone. But Roberts's style has a fresh, contemporary snap that gets the story past its own worst excesses.

Pub Date: June 13, 1995

ISBN: 0-399-14059-X

Page Count: 400

Publisher: Putnam

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 15, 1995

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