cover image The Samaritan

The Samaritan

Chaz Brenchley / Author St. Martin's Press $16.95 (0p) ISBN 97

Skillfully and delicately handled, the depiction of an accelerating, relentless brutality makes this first novel from England an engrossing read. Paul Fenner, a former detective in Newcastle, lost his wife and job after bungling the arrest of a public official. Now a recovering alcoholic and living with Tina, a young art student, he is asked by a friend on the force for help in solving a series of the intricately sadistic killings by a man called the Butcher. But only after a friend dying of cancer becomes the Butcher's next victim does Fenner master his bitterness and get involved, and it takes another killing before he picks up the clue that leads him to the Samaritans, a group that runs a crisis hotline. By then, he has unwittingly revealed his suspicions to the wrong person, putting himself, Tina and others he loves in mortal danger. Chapters revealing the Butcher's past as a brutalized child are deftly interspersed with present action as Fenner becomes the focus of the killer's madness. Seamlessly weaving the story's main threadsFenner's love for Tina, his tenuous time off the bottle and the inexorable cunning of the Butcherto a breath-taking climax, Brenchley constructs a truly chilling thriller, one that is not for the faint-hearted. (August)