NINE LEVELS DOWN by William R. Dantz


Email this review


A formulaic thriller by Dantz (The Seventh Sleeper, 1991, etc.), salvaged by the complete evil of the novel's psychopathic killer. Dr. Anna Kane, a psychiatrist for the New York State Department of Corrections, has developed an electronic implant that will temporarily knock unconscious anyone contemplating violence. Hoping to make New York's jails more peaceful, she tests the implant on prisoners, among them John Chester Marlon, also known as the Subway Killer. Marlon murdered dozens of young women--perhaps far more, but the police can't find the corpses to prove it. Homicide Detective McRay, however, believes that Marlon, who used to be a city engineer in charge of tunnels, conduits, drains, and all other things underground, has stashed the bodies somewhere in the dark maze of his former kingdom. Kane and her patient play the expected psychiatric cat-and-mouse, but of course Marlon is a brilliant lunatic and not easily tricked into becoming angry, the emotion necessary to trigger the implant. Meanwhile, his escape from the prison hospital is essentially foreordained, as is the inability of McRay and the police to do more than stumble along in pursuit. Marlon abducts Kane and another test subject, taking them to his secret places beneath the city, and all moves along rather predictably--until the killer brings Kane to the Doll House, his subterranean gallery of horrors, secretly holding the corpses of more than three dozen men, women, and children. Marlon sees it as his ""work of art,"" an eerie, contemporary counterpart to the museum Vincent Price created in The House of Wax. Dantz's final chapters almost make you forget the flat characters and trite plotline. Starts off slight and obvious, but ends with a big, scary bang.

Pub Date: July 1st, 1995
Page count: 288pp
Publisher: Forge/Tor