THE CHOSEN PREY by William Brashler


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It's 1952, a psycho is killing young Jewish boys around a Lake Michigan resort town, and Brashler (City Dogs, The Bingo Long Traveling All-Stars and Motor Kings) efficiently exploits the situation for both chills and issues--in a solidly readable, ultimately disappointing melodrama. The town is Beach Haven, with a population that's all of Dutch ancestry. . . all, that is, except for the Jewish summer crowd and the new sheriff from Chicago, veteran cop Bud McNulty. And when the savage murders begin (first there's the discovery of a year-old skeleton, then the fresh corpse of little Larry Weintraub), it's McNulty who tries a coverup--partly because of pressure from Jewish resort-owners, partly because of his desire to win fame by solving the case all by himself. But two tough-minded newcomers to town insist on uncovering all the evidence: handsome Chicago cop Mike Pincus, a friend of the grieving Weintraubs, who ""vacations"" in Beach Haven to carry out his own investigation; and gutsy Pat Brouwer, the town's beautiful new woman doctor, who refuses to censor her coroner reports and also stumbles on the previous town doctor's suppressed reports. Mike and Pat will fall in love, of course--an abrasive Jewish/Dutch romance that parallells the town's cross-cultural frictions. . . which escalate into all-out anti-Semitism when a local half-wit boy is foolishly arrested for the murders. And when Pat realizes that Mike hasn't been completely truthful with her (he's been half-cooperating with McNulty), she strikes out on her own, gothic-style, leading to a showdown with the killer. Unfortunately, however, revelation of the killer's identity has no impact, while the murky explanation of his psychosis (foreshadowed throughout in italicized monologues) is less than plausible. And the questions raised--about the nature of anti-Semitism, about police/press ethics--are never brought into focus. Still, the resort-town's two-tone atmosphere is vivid, the supporting cast is colorful (though the dialects are somewhat overdone), and--until the violent yet limp finale--the creepy tensions are nicely maintained.

Pub Date: March 10th, 1982
Publisher: Harper & Row