A smashing film noir on paper. For his sixth thriller, Bayer melds the glossy psychosexuality of his early work (Punish Me with Kisses, Peregrine, Switch, etc.) to the existential probings of Pattern Crimes (1987) to come up with an enthralling tale of a Manhattan photographer's vertiginous tumble into a vortex of sadism, blackmail, and murder. There's nothing subtle about Bayer's approach: his narrator/hero's hobby is watching "old movies of trapped men and cunning women ensnared and made mad by passion." But as soon as slinky young actress Kimberly Yates begins to spin her web around 40-year-old nightscape photographer Geoffrey Barnett, you're hooked. Of course, the web seems sugar-spun at first, as through sizzling nude-photo sessions and wildcat sex Kim breaks Geoffrey's longtime block against taking pictures of humans; but then 'she turns up bone-scared but not talking one night, and disappears the next. Desperate, Geoffrey storms her apartment building and learns that: Kim's split; and that she and her roommate, Shadow, were lesbian lovers as well as a pricey whore-team. Moreover, Shadow is dead--tortured--and two tough cops want to know why. And why does someone throw lye toward Geoffrey's eyes in a deliberate near-miss? A phone number leads him to Cleveland, where he tracks down Kim's old lesbian love, Grace; a clue stolen from her leads him, after a stop in N.Y.C., down to Key West--and Kim. Deep-frying him with her sexuality, she denies that--as he's been told--she was using him as fall guy in a scheme to blackmail a killer-sadist; and why don't they blackmail the guy together? So they do, based in Sante Fe, with help from Geoffrey's macho vet pal; but double-cross leads to triple, and by novel's end once-pussycat Geoffrey learns that the real world can be more noir than film. The ingredients here are as old as Double Indemnity, but Bayer stirs them into an irresistible brew with a wicked kick. Slick, unstoppable entertainment.