cover image Mercy


David Lindsey. Doubleday Books, $19.95 (513pp) ISBN 978-0-385-24813-6

Lindsey ( In the Lake of the Moon ) has constructed a lean, gripping, psychological thriller around a gruesome subject: a series of brutally sadistic murders among the lesbian demimonde of monied Houston. The victims are found nude, beaten, bitten, slashed--and perfumed and flawlessly made-up, but with their eyelids expertly sliced from their eyes. Lindsey's likable heroine, recently divorced detective Carmen Palma, frantically tries to discover the murderer before another strike, battling both male chauvinism within the department and a growing discomfort with her task: exposure to the brutalized corpses is destroying her peace of mind. Still, she's tough, her powers of deduction remarkable, and the investigation moves swiftly--though it's periodically upstaged by erotic descriptions of murder and incest as well as enlightening asides on the nature and psychology of lesbianism, serial murder, transvestism, fetishism, bisexuality and sadomasochism. In all, Lindsey seems to have achieved a paradoxical goal: to create a sexually charged thriller that entertains in a responsible manner. Written with masterly skill, his chilling, provocative story is propelled by sophisticated characterization, credible dialogue and accurately rendered details. Literary Guild and Doubleday Book Club selections; author tour. (May)