cover image Red Bride

Red Bride

Christopher Fowler. Roc, $20 (320pp) ISBN 978-0-451-45213-9

Set in contemporary London, this lackluster horror/suspense novel by the author of Bureau of Souls demonstrates that the right parts don't always form a satisfactory whole. John Chapel quits a boring corporate job to try his hand at public relations, but remains the quintessential family man--until he meets the beautiful Ixora De Corizo, a model and actress who becomes his first and only client, then expertly seduces him. Strange men warn John away from Ixora, only to turn up as victims in a bizarre and gruesome series of slayings; nevertheless, he divorces his wife to marry this woman with a mysterious past. The fragmented narrative never successfully meshes the sordid domestic drama of John and Ixora's life together with the horror of the ongoing murders. Fowler's decision to describe the killings without revealing the perpetrator's identity is meant to heighten the suspense, but it only detracts from Ixora's menace. To make matters worse, John is a wishy-washy, unsympathetic protagonist; apparently unmoved by the violent slayings taking place around them, he doubts his new wife's integrity and entertains notions of returning to suburbia. As character after character meets a savage, senseless demise, the lovers plod along toward a less than shocking climax. Though Fowler's descriptive powers are considerable, they mainly disguise the hollowness of this effort. (Jan.)