David J. Schow, Author . HarperCollins/Dark Alley $13.95 (289p) ISBN 978-0-06-053667-1

Storms raging outdoors and in the mind of the protagonist create a maelstrom of menace in this sinuous psychological thriller by Schow (The Kill Riff ; The Shaft ). A whopper of a hurricane is barreling up the California coast, and renegade architect Art Latimer is planning to ride it out and test the structural integrity of his self-designed dream home. At the same time, he's struggling to batten down powerful feelings about his wife, Lorelle, whose death two years before sent him into an emotional tailspin. As the storm intensifies, a string of peculiar experiences suggest that the foundations of his reality are wobbling. He finds an old bottle washed up on the beach containing a cryptic message that speaks eerily to him. Then he's visited by a long-lost friend who mysteriously disappears without a trace from the premises. Meanwhile, a wild house party is underway down the beach and host Price, a steely manipulator who employs drugs and humiliation to control his guests, schemes to use the storm as cover for playing sinister mind games with Art. Schow works suspenseful sleight-of-hand with his story elements, skillfully underplaying the significance of clues and deftly managing character viewpoints to direct what the reader sees. His kinetic orchestration of events—action sequences, moments of moving intimacy and the richly symbolic tempest outside—and vivid hardboiled prose push the plot to a thunderclap climax that in less assured hands would seem farfetched but here is a measure of coolly calculated audacity. (Oct.)

Forecast: Schow's credentials—he founded the cultish horror genre called splatterpunk and is the screenwriter of The Crow—should help get this into the right hands, as should a cover rave from Peter Straub.

Reviewed on: 10/06/2003
Release date: 09/01/2003
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