Stephen R. Donaldson, Author . Forge $24.95 (256p) ISBN 978-0-7653-0203-8

The author of the bestselling Chronicles of Thomas Covenant SF series delivers a pretty good tough guy yarn in this minimally revised reissue, the first of Donaldson's mysteries to feature alcoholic ex-PI "Brew" Axbrewder, who dries out occasionally to assist Ginny Fistoulari, his former partner and romantic interest. Axbrewder can't overcome his guilt and shame over the accidental slaying of his policeman brother. When Fistoulari rousts him from his drinking this time, it's because his young niece, Alathea, has gone missing. Fighting withdrawal through much of the book, Axbrewder joins Fistoulari in helping the girl's mother—talking to unsympathetic policemen, hostile school officials and, as their investigation expands, parents of other children who have simply disappeared from school only to turn up as dead junkies and whores. The book is dated in ways important and not: Axbrewder rents a Torino to drive; the large urban school district is just beginning to computerize records; the police seem indifferent to a bunch of 12- or 13-year-old schoolgirls disappearing from school and later showing up as corpses. Fans of the author's most recent Axbrewder story, last year's The Man Who Fought Alone, might relish this peek at his origins, but readers seeking a contemporary mystery are likely to be disappointed. (Dec. 10)

FYI:The novel was first published as a paperback original in 1980 under the pseudonym Reed Stephens.

Reviewed on: 11/18/2002
Release date: 11/01/2002
Mass Market Paperbound - 240 pages - 978-0-7653-4125-9
Prebound-Sewn - 978-1-4178-0517-4
Ebook - 256 pages - 978-1-4299-7303-8
Paperback - 250 pages - 978-1-4091-3510-4
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