David Martin, Author Villard Books $23 (289p) ISBN 978-0-679-41056-0
At the beginning of Martin's stylish but unbearably brutal new thriller, Donald Growler puts a severed human head into a washing machine, pours in some shampoo after it, notes it's called Head & Shoulders, thinks ""Or in this case just Head,"" then muses: ""It wasn't that difficult being a homicidal maniac."" Not exactly a thigh-slapper, but that's about as light as the book gets. The ferocious Growler was once wrongfully accused of murder; after his release from a crippling jail sentence, he goes around systematically slaughtering, in lubriciously painful detail, the people he believes set him up. Since one of them is perky heroine Annie Milton, with whom ex-cop Teddy Camel once had an affair, Camel finds himself drawn into the hunt for Growler--which in this case consists mostly of trying to stay alive and keep Annie ditto. With the aid of a couple of really crooked cops, a hideous old house that doubles as a torture chamber and sundry cruelties, including a victim burned alive, the nailing of someone's foot to the floor, several beheadings, a sanguinary garroting and an ingeniously contrived electrocution, Martin eventually thins out his cast. The fact that he writes swiftly and with some wit doesn't really compensate for the strain on the reader. This and the recent Bone Collector (Forecasts, Dec. 16) seem to be part of a campaign to prove that writers can reach new depths in depicting violence if they put their minds to it. (Mar.)
Reviewed on: 03/03/1997
Release date: 03/01/1997
Genre: Fiction
Mass Market Paperbound - 352 pages - 978-0-312-96730-7
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