Topping from Below

Laura Reese, Author
Laura Reese, Author St. Martin's Press $22.95 (364p) ISBN 978-0-312-12000-9
Reviewed on: 05/29/1995
Release date: 06/01/1995
Paperback - 384 pages - 978-0-312-14435-7
Analog Audio Cassette - 978-1-882071-58-6
Compact Disc - 978-1-62461-051-6
Open Ebook - 384 pages - 978-1-4299-4192-1
Paperback - 380 pages - 978-1-4447-6576-2
Paperback - 364 pages - 978-1-250-02753-5
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The title of this devilishly pornographic--albeit literate--novel is taken from the argot of sadomasochism and refers to a rebellious dynamic in which the dominant partner (the ``top'') is subtly manipulated by the submissive partner (the ``bottom''). After her young sister, Franny, is found murdered--bound, gagged and mutilated--Nora Tibbs, a journalist for the Sacramento Bee, discovers in Franny's computer a diary that details her brief affair with ``M.,"" an arrogant music professor in his late 40s. Cruelly exploiting the overweight, love-starved woman, M. forced Franny to submit to a humiliating gamut of outre sexual practices. Convinced that M. is Franny's murderer, Nora sets out to prove his guilt by pretending to submit to his depraved aberrations. But, to her astonishment, she discovers a dark, pagan side of herself when M. enthralls her with intense, if perilous, sexual pleasure. Graphic descriptions of exotic sexual practices (bondage and discipline, sadomasochism, bestiality, etc.) accumulate, counterpointed by Nora's sweetly romantic relationship with a fellow reporter. The suspense, a bit attenuated by thin secondary characters, also is muted by artless foreshadowing, but the conclusion is satisfying in a savage sort of way and Nora's plunge ``down, all the way down'' under M.'s manipulations will keep most readers gripped even as they're aware that Reese's shameless pandering is manipulating them in turn. Comparison to Story of O is well earned. 100,000 first printing; Literary Guild and Doubleday Book Club alternates. (June)
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