cover image The Orchid Eaters

The Orchid Eaters

Marc Laidlaw / Author St. Martin's Press $19.95 (282p) ISBN 97

With unusual insights into the cruel extremism and vulnerability of adolescence, this suspenseful thriller of psychosis and serial killing follows the parallel stories of a young murderer and the boy he might have been in the quiet Southern California town of Bohemia Bay. After several years of street life and wandering, Lupe Diaz arrives in Bohemia to settle a score with his older brother Sal. Lupe blames Sal for his brutal castration (cauterized by blowtorch) at the hands of a gang. As might be expected, Lupe's psychological scars are far worse than his physical ones and he finds comfort in collecting a ghostly gang of victims. The drug-peddling Sal has a gang of his own, a group of gay runaways he shelters in his Bohemia Bay house. Elsewhere in town, Mike James, a bright, artistic high school student, finds an outlet for his thirst for action in a group of semi-delinquents from the local alternative school, led by an ex-con, ex-biker turned Bible-thumping Peter Pan. When some gay-bashing pranks bring Mike into contact with Sal and the dangerous Lupe, the three gangs collide with murderous results. Laidlaw ( Kalifornia ) peoples Bohemia Bay with colorful multidimensional characters, both teenaged and adult, and tells their grisly story with evocative prose in a penetrating, convincing voice. Clever plotting and a lively pace fortify an imaginative, offbeat and often unnerving tale. (Mar.)