cover image Garden of Evil

Garden of Evil

Edna Buchanan. William Morrow & Company, $24 (319pp) ISBN 978-0-380-97654-6

Miami crime reporter Britt Montero (Margin of Error, etc.) endures a heat wave and much worse when some apparently unrelated stories converge. When a woman claims to Britt that she's a hit man's target, she's perceived at first as lonely, then as paranoid; a headless man smashes up a car during a shootout when his lifeless foot jams on the accelerator. That's all in a day's work for Britt, but then a female serial killer roars onto the scene. Keppie's M.O.: two shots delivered to near naked, post-coitus males, lipstick traces on exploding shells, stolen cars and purloined credit cards. Britt is on the story, and the pretty killer, enamored of her press clippings, takes an interest in the reporter--who, not being one to turn down a chance at good copy, consents when the cops hatch a plan to catch Keppie by using Britt as bait. Of course, the plan goes awry and Britt finds herself in a car with the murderer and a frightened young boy, driving across the Sunshine State. In addition to winding up on the wrong end of a pistol-whipping from the slinky Keppie, Britt helplessly witnesses the killer practice her craft and gets caught up in a televised, O.J. Simpson-like car chase. Throughout, Buchanan sustains a feverish pace with hyper-fast cuts between major and minor plot lines. Although the resolution is relegated to an emotionless kind of narrative postscript, Keppie, a long-legged mankiller with a family secret and guile to spare, will easily command the attention of Buchanan's fans. Meanwhile, Britt herself, tough yet tender, remains a solid enough character to retain readers' interest despite the hyperbolic escapades Buchanan subjects her to in this over-the-top tale. (Nov.)