cover image Calling Mr. Lonely Hearts

Calling Mr. Lonely Hearts

Laura Benedict, . . Ballantine, $25 (314pp) ISBN 978-0-345-49769-7

After summoning a lover through a ritual part witchcraft, part Santeria, at the start of Benedict’s spellbinding second novel (after Isabella Moon ), three 13-year-old Lolitas—Roxanne, Del and Alice—believe that their new teacher at Cincinnati’s Our Lady of the Hills school, is the angel sent to deflower them. Roxanne successfully schemes to seduce Cuban-born Father Romero, who suffers terrible guilt as a result. When Alice and Del each falsely accuse Romero of acting inappropriately toward them, Romero is defrocked and loses his job. Seventeen years later, Romero returns to town with Varick, a demon disguised as a man, to punish the now adult schoolgirls. All become entangled in an unholy web of destruction that threatens innocent lives. While the underage sex may make some readers uncomfortable, this sad, erotically charged update of a classic horror theme offers a cautionary moral: pacts with the devil seldom result in happiness. (Dec.)