Distemper

Beth Saulnier, Author Grand Central Publishing $21.5 (400p) ISBN 978-0-446-60861-9
If ever a mystery novel about serial mutilation could be called delightful, this one could. Saulnier (Reliable Sources) romps playfully through a story of love, death, animal rights, journalistic ethics, college life and small-town politics. The tale begins when a naked female corpse--complete with unexplained scrapes on her hands and knees--is found in the hills near a small college town. Local reporter Alex Bernier quickly immerses herself in the mystery: first as journalist, then as the roommate of a subsequent victim and finally as a potential target herself. Alex must overcome her need for self-protection as she is caught between her desire to get an increasingly hot scoop and her journalistic scruples, and everything gets even muddier when she starts a surreptitious fling with the lead cop on the case. Although the denouement falls just a touch flat, Saulnier's energetic prose provides such pleasure that reader aren't likely to mind. The first-person narration is consistently fresh and funny, vivid right down to its smallest observations (""He looked like a trick-or-treater with an empty plastic pumpkin,"" Alex says of one disappointed colleague). Alex herself makes an appealing and utterly convincing protagonist, at once witty and sensible, loving and tough. Though promotional materials tout the book's Gen X appeal, this mystery's mix of lively intrigue, sparkling writing and simple human warmth should earn it a far broader readership. (June)
Reviewed on: 05/29/2000
Release date: 06/01/2000
Genre: Fiction
Hardcover - 388 pages - 978-0-7278-6255-6
Analog Audio Cassette - 978-0-7927-2417-9
Open Ebook - 978-0-7595-2692-1
Open Ebook - 193 pages - 978-0-446-58875-1
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