Acquired Motives

Sarah Lovett, Author Villard Books $22.95 (0p) ISBN 978-0-679-43560-0

Her name notwithstanding, Sylvia Strange is a fairly normal forensic psychologist; here, as in her debut (Dangerous Attachments), it is the world around her that is strange and disturbingly violent. After Sylvia's court testimony helps let sadistic rapist Anthony Randall go free, both she and the defendant pay. Randall is abducted, castrated and torched, and Sylvia is attacked and left a photo of the castrated rapist. Sylvia's lover, Matt England, on the murder case for the New Mexico State Police, is wary of a friend, AWOL FBI agent Dan Chaney, who crops up to convince Sylvia and Matt that the killer is an arms dealer the Bureau claims is dead. By the time a second sexual offender is torched, and it looks like Sylvia may have contributed to the death by overlooking problems with a client during his parole-mandated therapy sessions, Chaney's story sounds pretty good. Toss in Matt's ex-lover, a shaman with ""a midnight full-moon healing ceremony"" and a psychic who helps save the day, and this becomes a story for those who revel in excess: physical, psychological and spiritual. The path to the solution is convoluted and character-crowded, but Lovett successfully pulls the story's several strands together in the end. (Sept.) FYI: Simultaneous audio publication with the audio ($18, ISBN 0-679-43271-0).